Is it a “basic employment right” to have an investigation meeting before a disciplinary hearing? No.
A dismissal has to be fair and any investigation needs to be reasonable. The case below demonstrates that holding an investigation meeting is not an absolute requirement of a fair procedure. What is important is the substance of the investigation itself.
Goddard v Sunshine Hotel Limited t/a Palm Court Hotel
Mr Goodard worked as a night porter at a hotel.
One night, Mr Goddard was found in an anteroom supposedly sleeping whilst he was meant to be working. The Hotel maintained Mr Goddard had been sleeping from 12:10am to 1:30am. Mr Goddard argued he had entered the anteroom at 12:10am and then exited the room via a side door after a couple of minutes to do his patrol around the hotel; he then re-entered the anteroom at around 1.30am. Mr Goddard rested on the bed with the lights off and a blanket over him during his break because he had been feeling unwell.
Mr Goddard was found by a Director in the anteroom, snoring. Mr Goddard was suspended and the hotel conducted an investigation. The investigation involved only sitting down with Director to watch the CCTV. Mr Goddard stated he would not have been seen on CCTV because of the route of the patrol. No investigation took place into Mr Goddard’s alleged ill-health or the patrol route itself.
The hotel invited Mr Goddard to an investigation meeting however, the investigation meeting turned out to be the disciplinary hearing. Mr Goddard was dismissed for gross misconduct.
The dismissal was held to be unfair because of the lack of investigation including the absence of an investigation meeting and the employer appealed on the basis that the Tribunal was saying that there must be, by right, a separate investigation hearing with the employee, followed by a subsequent disciplinary hearing.
The employer’s appeal was rejected. The EAT confirmed however, that an employee has no freestanding right to a separate investigation meeting for a dismissal to be fair, but the Tribunal had not said that. Rather the Tribunal had said that in the fact of this case there had been a lack of a proper investigating, and the employee had a lack of an opportunity to prepare for his disciplinary hearing.
The ACAS Code of Practice states:
“It is important to carry out any necessary investigations of potential disciplinary matters without unreasonable delay to establish the facts of the case. In some cases this will require the holding of an investigatory meeting with the employee before proceeding to any disciplinary hearing. In others, the investigatory stage will be a collation of evidence by the employer for use at any disciplinary hearing.”
The ACAS Code of Practice does not make an investigation meeting a requirement. The investigation can take different forms but it needs to be substantive, thorough and reasonable.
Many employers will have a disciplinary and grievance procedure. The procedure will need to be followed by employers to ensure they conducted a fair and reasonable investigation.
Basic Employment Right
Whilst the holding of an investigation meeting is not a basic employment right, being able to understand the reason(s) for disciplinary action, is. This includes the opportunity to challenge any allegations put. Employers should be mindful to keep the investigation and the disciplinary separate as much as possible and an investigation meeting can be a means of achieving this.
How we can help
Carol Shaw, our head of employment at Spratt Endicott, has many years of experience working within employment law. If you have any questions regarding the article or dismissals in general, you can contact Carol on on 01295 204140 or via email email@example.com.
*Disclaimer: While everything has been done to ensure the accuracy of the contents of this article, it is a general guide only. It is not comprehensive and does not constitute legal advice. Specific legal advice should be sought in relation to the particular facts of a given situation.