Can it be reasonable to dismiss on written evidence alone

The case of Charalambous v National Bank of Greece looks at whether a Disciplinary Manager must meet with an employee before deciding to dismiss.

Mr Charalambous was accused of data breach because he was alleged to have breached the company’s data security policies. The hearing found him guilty and he was dismissed for gross misconduct.

However, the manager who dismissed him had been involved in the initial investigation. Although he went on to hand over the rest of the investigation process to another manager.

The decision to dismiss, was based on the written evidence gathered during the investigation, and did not involve the disciplinary manager meeting with Mr Charlambous in a hearing.

Mr Charlambous was dismissed, and appealed the decision, for which he did attend a meeting. He claimed unfair dismissal on the basis of the manager who made the decision to dismiss him had not met with him to discuss the case.

The judgement

The Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) ruled that a manager does not have to meet an employee before deciding to dismiss them and therefore rejected Mr Charlambous’ argument, finding that the dismissal was fair and was within the range of reasonable responses.

This is despite that part of the claimant’s arguments was referencing the case of ‘Budgen & Co v Thomas’. It was in this case, that the EAT had established that a dismissal taking place where the disciplinary manager did not meet the employee, was on the face of it, unfair.

Even though this previous EAT case ruled that in those circumstances it had been unfair to dismiss without meeting the employee, the EAT in Mr Charlambous’ case ruled that in the circumstances, the decision did fall within the band of reasonable responses This was because the employee had the opportunity to explain his position to the investigating manager, he had been given the opportunity to appeal the decision to dismiss him and therefore, it was sufficient to show that he had been given a fair hearing.

The EAT noted (in reference to Budgen & Co v Thomas) that it is desirable for a manager to meet with an employee before making a decision to dismiss them, but this is not always necessary.

The EAT’s ruling is a reminder that:

This case does come with caution as the ruling does not automatically mean an employer can dismiss without meeting the employee in a hearing. It is though, a helpful reference for perhaps exceptional situations. Although we would advise seeking HR advice.

  • employers do not have to meet with an employee before deciding to dismiss. However, it is still desirable to do so, as it can help to ensure that the dismissal is fair.
  • if an employer does not meet with an employee before dismissing, they should be prepared to justify their decision to the employee and to an employment tribunal, if necessary
  • in some cases, such as where the allegations against the employee are serious or complex, it may be essential for the manager to meet with the employee to discuss the case in detail and therefore, this EAT’s ruling does not mean that an employee who is not met with before being dismissed will automatically be fair. The tribunal will still need to consider all of the circumstances of the case, including the reasons for the dismissal, the employee’s disciplinary record, and the fairness of the overall process.
  • this is a helpful case to know that there may be circumstances where a meeting isn’t required, but employers must consider this action with caution.

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