Unfair Dismissal - ET awards over £100,000 and employee reinstated after flawed investigation process

Dismissal case which highlights the importance of getting the investigation process right. 

Thornhill v London Borough of Camden 

The Claimant was employed by the respondent for 37 years when he was dismissed due to irregularities that had taken place in a tendering process. At the time he had interactions with a bidding company which subsequently then won the tender. These interactions related to seeing pricing documents from the current provider as well as assisting an employee of that tendering company to receive tickets.  

While the tender was being processed the Claimant had asked to be removed from the process as his son was hospitalised, the claimant was informed this would be possible as he was the only specialist in that field (street lighting). As a result of the interactions actions were taken towards the respondent from another bidder and was settled for a ‘substantial’ amount of compensation.

Following the action taken against the respondent an internal investigation was opened and the claimant was cooperative. He met with auditors to discuss on numerous occasions but eventually was signed off on long-term sick. Following this he was not requested to attend any further meetings and disciplinary proceedings started in relation to his knowledge of commercial information and the failure to inform legal department of sharing prices or the tickets. The claimant did not attend due to his longterm illness and was dismissed in September 2017.  

The claimant brought his claim to tribunal who found that the investigation that led to his dismissal was fundamentally flawed. Although they argued that the reason for dismissal may be deemed fair it was also added that there was no evidence to support dishonestly or that in fact he has committed gross misconduct on the little evidence they had collected. This along with the fact that the claimant was never informed that he was being investigated for dishonesty or fraud, removing the right to respond to the alleged allegations. 

The claimant informed the tribunal that he had at the time approached his line manager as to whether he should receive the pricing information and was informed that it was “ok” and that he was never trained in handling tenders was factors of consideration when the tribunal considered in relation to his dismissal. Overall after deliberation the decision made by ET was that the process was unfair, and the claimant be reinstated and received £100,618 in loss of earnings 

Full judgement available here  

What does this mean for your business?  

This case demonstrates that the investigation is a fundamental part in the process when considering dismissing an employee. At investigation it is important to ascertain all of the evidence that would make it reasonable to take a decision to dismiss an employee as well as retaining evidence such as minutes from meetings and other incidental documentation. Want to ensure that you are protecting your business when conducting an investigation and make the evidence gathering process easier and effective? Contact our team today on 0844 327 2293 to discuss further.  


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