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22nd September 2015

The role of Human Resources in disciplinary situations

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The EAT has provided guidance on the role of Human Resources in disciplinary proceedings.

The EAT has provided guidance on the role of Human Resources in disciplinary proceedings. In Ramphal v Department for Transport, the investigating officer was inexperienced in dealing with disciplinary proceedings and sought the advice of HR. In itself this is permissible; an investigating officer is entitled to call upon advice from HR. However, HR’s advice went beyond guidance on the law and procedure and strayed into advice on the employee’s culpability and the appropriate finding. As a result, the investigating officer’s report, which initially contained a number of comments favourable to the employee, changed from a finding of misconduct and recommending a written warning, to a finding that there had been gross misconduct and a recommendation of summary dismissal. This, the EAT held, is not acceptable. It is not for HR to advise on what the finding should be; an employee facing disciplinary charges and a dismissal procedure is “entitled to assume that the decision will be taken by the appropriate officer, without having been lobbied by other parties as to the findings he should make as to culpability.” Moreover, the employee should be notified of any such representations going beyond legal and procedural advice made to the dismissing officer. The case has been returned to the Employment Tribunal to decide whether HR’s influence was improper and is a useful reminder that, when advising in disciplinary proceedings, HR must avoid comment on the culpability of the employee concerned. For more information please visit our Employment Services page or email Hayley Cottington by clicking here.