Employee Wins Payout Following Inadequate Disciplinary Inquiry

December 12, 2013

Employee Wins Payout Following Inadequate Disciplinary Inquiry

In a stern warning to employers that disciplinary inquiries must be performed with the utmost care, an NHS employee has been awarded more than £30,000 in compensation for unfair dismissal on the basis that an internal investigation into his alleged wrongdoing was inadequate (Croydon Health Service NHS Trust v Brown).

The employee had faced allegations that he coerced an external contractor to employ members of his family, improperly authorised invoices submitted to his employer by his brother’s firm and inappropriately assisted that firm in a tendering process. All three disciplinary charges were found proved following an internal investigation and the employee was summarily dismissed on grounds of gross misconduct.

An Employment Tribunal (ET) later found that the inquiry had not been reasonably conducted in that the employee’s contention that the contractor had had an ulterior motive for accusing him had not been adequately considered. The employee’s unfair dismissal claim was upheld and he was awarded £43,300 in compensation.

In dismissing the employer’s appeal on the issue of liability, the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) rejected arguments that the ET had wrongly substituted its own views for those of the employer. Although the employer had succeeded in ‘landing some blows’ on the ET’s decision it could not be said that the ET had ‘fallen into the substitution trap’.

However, the EAT went on to acknowledge that the employee had himself been guilty of culpable or blameworthy conduct in authorising invoices without the necessary documentation and reduced his damages award by 25 per cent to £32,475.