28 March, 2019
The Employment Appeal Tribunal ("EAT") in Beattie v Condorrat War Memorial and Social Club & Others recently upheld a tribunal decision that a procedural failing in carrying out an investigation and a finding of unfair dismissal did not necessarily lead to compensation.
The Claimant was employed as a bar steward for the respondent social club since 2008. Her duties included bar work, ordering stock, paperwork and banking. In May 2015 during an external stock taking exercise, two cases of vodka and two bottles of brandy were found to be missing. Steps to ascertain why the stock were missing failed and a final written warning was issued to the Claimant. In November of that year she refused to sell tickets for a function in order to avoid any concerns if money went missing. Despite repeated requests to sell the tickets, she continued to refuse and was suspended on full pay pending an investigation. On conclusion of the investigation she was dismissed.
On bringing a claim for unfair dismissal, the tribunal held that whilst the dismissal was within a band of reasonable responses, she had been unfairly dismissed due to procedural failings. However, the tribunal found that had a fair procedure been followed, it was 100% certain she would still have been dismissed and her award of compensation was reduced to nil on a Polkey assessment. The EAT upheld the decision on appeal.
Despite the findings of the EAT, it is important to ensure that a procedurally correct and fair investigation is carried out in all necessary instances. Whilst the Polkey assessment assisted the employer in this case, this is a measure of last resort at tribunal. Recourse to tribunal can be stressful, costly and time consuming and should be avoided as far as possible.
If you have any queries regarding conducting an investigation, or would like advice in relation to any aspect of employment law please contact our Employment and HR Team by telephone on 0333 207 1135. Alternatively, send your enquiry to us through our online contact form.