Unfair Dismissal

The EAT has held in Hargreaves v Manchester Grammar that it was not unfair for an employer to withhold certain evidence from a disciplinary panel.

The Claimant, a teacher with a previously unblemished record, allegedly grabbed a pupil, pushing him against a wall and putting his fingers around the pupil’s throat. He was dismissed by a disciplinary panel and the Tribunal found his dismissal to be fair.

The Claimant appealed, alleging that, given the damage that the allegation may do to his career, the Respondent’s disciplinary procedure had been unsatisfactory. The Respondent, during the disciplinary procedure had not disclosed, to the Claimant or the panel, witness evidence from two pupils and one member of the administrative staff, all of whom said they had seen nothing.

The Claimant argued that this evidence was highly relevant due to the location of the alleged incident and the conduct that he was accused of. He also contended that the fact that he did not raise this point during the disciplinary process had no relevance.

The Claimant’s arguments were rejected and the EAT held that the Tribunal had correctly directed itself in terms of the higher standard of investigation expected given the gravity of the allegations. They concluded that the decision taken by the Respondent not to present the evidence to the Claimant and the panel fell within the band of reasonable responses; and that the fact that the witnesses had not seen anything did not mean that nothing had happened. Thus, it was held that the investigation carried out was fair, and in turn, the dismissal was not unfair.

This decision is of relevance to all employers who may be carrying out internal disciplinary procedures and should be borne in mind when deciding what process to follow. It is important to note that if the information withheld had been relevant information the dismissal would have been unfair.

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