Dismissing an employee for misconduct without first engaging in a transparent and fair disciplinary process is the legal equivalent of holding a gun to your head. In a case on point, an Employment Tribunal (ET) did not mince words in publicly exposing an employer’s abject procedural failures.
A gas engineer who had risen to a senior management role in the company for which he worked was summoned to a meeting on his return from a business trip. He was informed that a client had complained about allegedly non-compliant gas installation works and that he was being suspended with immediate effect.
When he subsequently attended what was described as a fact-finding meeting, he was told that he was only there to answer questions, not to ask them. He was given no advance notice of what would be discussed at the meeting or who would be in attendance, and was not informed of any of its findings.
He remained in the dark as to the allegations against him and potential outcomes when he was invited to a disciplinary meeting. The meeting consisted of a prepared statement being read to him confirming that he was being summarily dismissed for gross misconduct. An appeal against that decision was later dismissed.
Upholding his unfair dismissal complaint, the ET found that it necessarily followed from the absence of a reasonable investigation that the company had no genuine or reasonable belief that he was guilty of misconduct. There was no evidence on which to base such a belief and his dismissal therefore fell outside the range of responses open to a reasonable employer.
The ET ruled that his compensation should be uplifted by 25 per cent to reflect the company’s abject failure to follow any fair process. It had consciously chosen not to provide him with details of the allegations or evidence against him and had reached conclusions without giving him an opportunity to be heard.
The company was ordered to pay him a basic award of £2,284 and a compensatory award of £11,751. He was also awarded £501 in accrued but unpaid holiday pay. Had he not succeeded in finding alternative employment within a week of his dismissal, the compensatory award would have been substantially higher.