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Case law: Employer’s investigation into serious allegations against employee should include assessing the employee’s general credibility

Employers considering disciplining an employee should, where the allegations and/or consequences are particularly serious, ensure their investigation takes into account all factors relevant to the reasonableness of their decision, including the credibility of the employee, and is not just limited to the specific allegations.

Legal Alert

This update was published in Legal Alert - January 2017

Legal Alert is a monthly checklist from Atom Content Marketing highlighting new and pending laws, regulations, codes of practice and rulings that could have an impact on your business.

An employee, a healthcare assistance, was summarily dismissed after a patient alleged she had acted in an uncaring and cruel way, been abusive and all but assaulted the patient. She claimed unfair dismissal.

The Employment Tribunal (ET) found that the employer’s investigation into the allegations was reasonable (procedural failings at an earlier stage in the disciplinary process had been remedied at the appeal stage); and the decision to dismiss her was within the range of reasonable responses open to an employer.

The Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) found that the allegations, and the potential consequences for the employee, were very serious. The ET should therefore have reviewed the circumstances not just in order to decide whether the specific allegations by the patient were made out, but in order to assess the employee’s credibility generally — including whether it was likely that events had taken place as the patient alleged. If the ET had done so it may have come to the conclusion that the employer had not acted reasonably when it accepted the truth of the patient’s allegations.

The matter was therefore remitted to the ET to reconsider.

Operative date

  • Now

Recommendations

  • Employers considering disciplining an employee should, where the allegations and/or consequences for the employee could be particularly serious, ensure their investigation takes into account all factors relevant to the reasonableness of the employer’s decision, including the credibility of the employee, and is not just limited to investigation of the specific allegations

Case ref: Tykocki v Royal Bournemouth & Christchurch Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust UKEAT/0081/16/JOJ

Disclaimer: This article from Atom Content Marketing is for general guidance only, for businesses in the United Kingdom governed by the laws of England. Atom Content Marketing, expert contributors and ICAEW (as distributor) disclaim all liability for any errors or omissions.