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25 May 2012
Employment Appeal Tribunal
In rare cases, it may not be unfair to dismiss someone for conduct for which they have previously only received a warning. The fact that the employer previously considered the conduct serious enough only for a warning rather than dismissal was just one factor in determining the fairness of a dismissal.
This case concerned the ‘Baby P' case - the baby who was on the council's child protection register and whose parents did not follow an agreed child protection plan. Two of the social workers were considered to have taken inadequate steps to protect the baby as a result of which the baby died. Initially, the two social workers were issued with warnings for failing to keep proper records and failing to inform a legal planning meeting about the breaches of the child protection plan.
There was widespread concern in the media about the death. The Secretary of State directed the council to appoint a new director of children's services. The new director concluded there were sufficient grounds for further disciplinary proceedings. A second set of disciplinary proceedings then concluded that the two social workers should be dismissed.
One of the grounds on which they claimed the dismissals were unfair was that the council should not have carried out the second disciplinary process when it had already reached a conclusion at the first. But the EAT said that in rare circumstances it could be fair to hold a second disciplinary process; and this was one of those rare circumstances because the new management took a much more serious view of the allegations than the previous management.
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