Ramphal v Department for Transport UKEAT/0352/14; (2015) EMPLR 061
Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT)
HHJ Serota QC
HR departments may provide advice and guidance to managers about how to conduct disciplinary investigations but should be careful not to try and influence the outcome, according to the EAT.
The manager appointed to conduct the investigation into R’s alleged misconduct, and act as dismissing officer if necessary, was inexperienced. While preparing his report, he received advice from the HR department. The advice was not just about the appropriate procedure. It drew attention to matters which might have had a bearing onR’s credibility and level of culpability. The first draft of the report prepared by the manager contained some findings favourable to R, but after communication with HR further drafts of the report became more critical and the final draft recommended summary dismissal. Favourable conclusions no longer appeared.
R was summarily dismissed. An employment tribunal found the dismissal fair. The EAT considered the tribunal had not adequately considered whether the advice from the HR department amounted to improperly attempting to influence the outcome and, if it did, whether it had materially influenced the dismissing officer. The case was sent back to the same employment judge. The EAT pointed out that an employee facing disciplinary charges and a dismissal procedure is entitled to expect that the decision will be taken by the appropriate officer, without lobbying by otherspressing for particular conclusions. An employee should be given notice of any changes in the case he has to meet so that he can deal with them.
Comment: This seems unrealistic. Would an HR department be doing its job if, on being asked to comment on an investigator’s report, it failed to point out evidence that appeared to have been overlooked or the significance of matters which the investigator may have missed?
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