The Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) has considered the involvement of HR and in-house legal professionals in dealing with disciplinary matters and the risks of influencing any decision in the case of Dronsfield v University of Reading.
Dr Dronsfield was employed as a Professor at Reading University but was dismissed without notice for his failure to disclose to the University a personal relationship with a student in breach of the University’s policies and procedures. He brought a claim for unfair dismissal.
The Employment Tribunal claim failed so Dr Dronsfield appealed to the EAT.
The EAT found that the disciplinary investigation report had been heavily influenced by HR and in-house legal departments. It had not included points which were favourable to Dr Dronsfield and amendments had been made. The EAT held that it did not matter that the author had signed off the report, the Employment Tribunal had failed to consider the reasons why he had changed his view to the detriment of Dr Dronsfield. The EAT remitted the case back to the Employment Tribunal to consider the fairness of Dr Dronsfield’s dismissal.
This case echoes the Judgment in Ramphal v Department for Transport, an earlier case which also looked at HR’s remit in disciplinary procedures. In that case, the EAT held that HR are permitted to advise on the law and procedure that should be followed when conducting a disciplinary but that investigating officers should come to their own conclusions independently.
If changes are made to any decisions made during the disciplinary process, this may be grounds to challenge the decision and any such changes would need to be justified and scrutinised by a tribunal.
We have experience in advising on how to conduct disciplinary procedures and minimise the risk of a claim. Contact us for a free no obligation chat.
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