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Case law: Disciplinary investigations must remain within scope or may be unfair

Employers should ensure the scope of a disciplinary investigation it carries out is carefully considered before the investigation begins and is notified to the employee being investigated, and the investigation does not go beyond scope - or risk subsequent dismissals being ruled unfair, following a tribunal ruling.

October 2019

This update was published in Legal Alert - October 2019

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 was dismissed for ‘failure to process correct payment of team members’ – a matter relating to her competence. However, during the investigation carried out as part of the employer’s disciplinary process, evidence was also put forward relating to her conduct. This was beyond the scope of the investigation into her competence.

The Employment Tribunal (ET) took the investigation’s findings as to her conduct into consideration when considering whether or not she had been fairly dismissed.

The Employment Appeal Tribunal said the ET had been wrong to do so. The employee should have had notice not just of the allegations as to her competence, but also the serious allegations about her conduct – that she had deliberately processed team members’ payments incorrectly, or had done so for some other unlawful reason.

Operative date

  • Now

Recommendation

  • Employers should ensure the scope of each disciplinary investigation it carries out is carefully considered before the investigation begins, is notified to the employee being investigated, and the investigation does not go beyond scope, or risk subsequent dismissals being ruled unfair.

Case ref: Murdoch v Whitbread Group Plc UKEATS/0003/19/JW

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.

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