A recent Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) decision confirms that a business must conduct a thorough investigation before dismissing an employee, especially where the employee’s integrity is in question, as a higher level of investigation may be required to establish their guilt (or otherwise) for a fair dismissal to be proved. This is especially so where the employee raises a plausible defence to a serious allegation.
The EAT held that, in an unfair dismissal case regarding alleged dishonest conduct, a higher threshold was required in terms of the reasonable investigation to be undertaken by an employer prior to dismissal.
The employee, in this case, was employed at London City Airport. He had an impeccable record and in his most recent appraisal was graded “excellent”.
However, he was dismissed for attempting to steal goods from a duty-free shop. Of particular importance to the EAT in reaching its decision was the fact that the misconduct related to the claimant’s honesty.
Although the employer had conducted an investigation prior to dismissing the employee, there was other evidence readily available which was ignored. CCTV footage may well have proved whether the employee had been acting dishonestly in the shop. This above is a useful reminder that you should have clear disciplinary procedures in place, dealing in particular with how your investigations will be carried out. In light of the above decision, it may be wise to have your current policy reviewed. To demonstrate consistency you should ensure that your policies are adhered to and that detailed records are kept.