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Case law: Employers beware treating ‘mere’ investigations differently from disciplinary proceedings

Employers must follow fair procedures and comply with the rules of natural justice when investigating allegations against workers, including at meetings held while these are ongoing, or risk a constructive dismissal claim - a ruling makes clear.

December 2019

This update was published in Legal Alert - December 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.

Allegations were made against an employee and she was suspended while investigations were carried out.

During a fact-finding meeting held as part of the investigations, the employee felt that her employer had already decided it wanted to get rid of her, and there was no genuine intention that the investigation would be fair. She resigned and claimed unfair constructive dismissal.

There is a constructive dismissal when an employer has done something that is so fundamentally inconsistent with the mutual trust and confidence required in an employer/employee relationship – a ‘repudiatory breach’ - that the employee is entitled to treat him or herself as dismissed.

The Employment Appeal Tribunal rejected the employer’s argument that the meeting was only investigatory, and that it was not a breach of the implied term of mutual trust and confidence if it failed to strictly follow the rules of procedural fairness and natural justice as required in the case of full-blown disciplinary meetings.

Operative date

  • Now

Recommendation

  • Employers must follow fair procedures and comply with the rules of natural justice when investigating allegations against workers, including at meetings held while investigations are ongoing, or risk an constructive dismissal claims.

Case ref: Retirement Security Ltd v Wilson UKEAT/0019/19/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.

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