Employment Review: June 2015 – Grievances during disciplinary proceedings
The employee was employed as a bus driver. As the employee’s driving was considered to be below an acceptable standard and she had repeatedly refused to attend the training school, she was subject to disciplinary proceedings. During the disciplinary proceedings the employee made certain allegations about some of the managers involved. Despite these allegations the employer continued with the disciplinary proceedings and ultimately dismissed her. The employment tribunal found that her dismissal was fair as the penalty of dismissal lay within the band of reasonable responses a reasonable employer might have adopted.
On appeal the employee argued that the dismissal was unfair because the employer had not put the disciplinary procedure on hold until the employee’s allegations had been dealt with as a grievance. The Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT), categorically rejected this point of appeal stating that the employer was not obliged to suspend the disciplinary investigation until after they had dealt with the employee’s grievances.
Whether the EAT’s rather brief paragraph can be considered an authoritative statement of the law remains unclear, but it does at the very least confirm that the default position is not that a dismissal will be unfair if an employer does not adjourn disciplinary proceedings where a grievance has been raised.
However, employers must remain mindful that each case will depend on its own facts i.e. the grievance(s) raised and how they relate to the disciplinary proceedings in question. Therefore, employers must decide whether to suspend the disciplinary procedure in order to fully investigate the grievance or, if the issues are related, deal with both simultaneously. It may well be the appropriate course of action to suspend the disciplinary process if allegations of discrimination are made about those involved in bringing disciplinary action against the employee but specific advice should be taken if there is any doubt.
The content of this page is a summary of the law in force at the present time and is not exhaustive, nor does it contain definitive advice. Specialist legal advice should be sought in relation to any queries that may arise.
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