Alleged misconduct – the role of HR in a disciplinary procedure

For a conduct dismissal to be fair an employer must (at the time of dismissal):

  1. Believe the employee to be guilty of misconduct;
  2. Have reasonable grounds for believing the employee was guilty of that misconduct;
  3. Have carried out as much investigation as was reasonable in the circumstances when it formed that belief.

(British Home Stores Limited v Burchell [1978]IRLR 379)

Human Resources (HR) are often involved in disciplinary proceedings. For many Line Managers, Operations Directors, Finance Directors, Managing Directors and others conducting disciplinary investigations and chairing disciplinary hearings/appeals is not the normal day job. It is not at all unusual for them to seek help from HR.

When seeking that help a case from the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) called "Ramphal v Department for Transport (UKEAT/0352/14)" reminds us that the role of HR should be limited to matters of law, procedure and consistency. It is not for HR to decide culpability. The case in question concerned an employee’s alleged misuse of his company credit card. An investigating officer prepared a draft report recommending a final written warning. When HR reviewed this draft favourable comments were removed, critical comments added and the recommendation changed to dismissal. The EAT found HR’s involvement  to be “disturbing”. The case highlights that improper influence from HR may compromise the disciplinary procedure and render the dismissal unfair.

For more information on any of the issues above or if you’d like help with a disciplinary policy or procedure, give one of our employment experts a call on 0113 201 4900 for a free, initial discussion.

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