An investigatory officer failed to produce an impartial report by relying far too much on HR’s input. When conducting an investigation as part of disciplinary proceedings, businesses must ensure that any disciplinary action taken is impartial and fair.
The recent case of Ramphal –v- Department for Transport (September 2015) concerned a finding of gross misconduct following an audit of Mr Ramphal’s expenses account. Concerns were raised that his expenses were excessive and suspicious in nature.
An appointed officer produced a first draft of a report into Mr Ramphal’s conduct. The report had initially recommended a final warning for misconduct, but following HR’s input (requiring numerous redrafts over the course of six months), the officer recommended dismissal for gross misconduct which was followed.
Claim and Appeal
Mr Ramphal brought a claim for unfair dismissal. The Tribunal felt that the dismissal was a reasonable action for an employer to take. The Tribunal also felt that the officer was entitled to consider HR’s opinion. Mr Ramphal appealed to the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT). At appeal, the EAT found that the officer’s decision to dismiss Mr Ramphal was not a decision borne out of the officer’s own investigations. The EAT found that the decision was too heavily influenced by HR to be relied on.
What does this mean?
Investigating officers should confirm that their report is the product of their own investigation.
Investigating officers are entitled to seek input and guidance from HR as part of ongoing disciplinary investigations.
This advice from HR should be impartial and can only be limited to law and procedure. This advice cannot comment on liability of the employee.