The relevance of the employer’s knowledge in unfair dismissal cases

20th March 2020

The relevance of the employer’s knowledge in unfair dismissal cases

Last year in Royal Mail v Jhuti the Supreme Court held that knowledge of a manager, other than the dismissing manager can nevertheless be attributed to the employer when determining what the reason was for dismissal. In this case, the real reason for dismissal – whistleblowing – was concealed from the dismissing manager. The EAT has now considered whether another manager’s knowledge can be attributed to the employer in determining whether an employee’s dismissal was  reasonable.

In Uddin v London Borough of Ealing, an employee was accused of inappropriate sexual behaviour towards a student who was on a work placement, and was dismissed. The student reported the matter to the police, but later withdrew her complaint. The investigating officer was aware that the complaint had been withdrawn, but didn’t inform the dismissing manager of this fact. In those circumstances, was dismissal within the range of reasonable responses?

The employment tribunal held that the dismissal was fair. This was because the employee could have been fairly dismissed, irrespective of whether a complaint had been made to the police. The EAT disagreed; the dismissing manager had taken the police complaint into account. The dismissing manager said that she would have asked more questions had she been made aware that the student’s complaint had been withdrawn. The investigating officer’s knowledge was relevant and hidden from the dismissing manager. This rendered the dismissal unfair. The EAT remitted the case back to the same employment tribunal to decide on compensation. It  pointed out that the question of what would have happened, had the dismissing manager known about the withdrawal of the complaint, will be relevant in determining compensation. If the employee would have been fairly dismissed, notwithstanding the withdrawal of the complaint, compensation can potentially be reduced to nil.

Employers should ensure that all relevant information is given to those tasked with dealing with disciplinary issues, including evidence which comes to light between the conclusion of an investigation and a disciplinary or appeal hearing.

For advice on dismissal or disciplinary issues, contact Kimberley Clayton on 01473 298168 or email kimberley.clayton@gotelee.co.uk.

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