Should you be able to dismiss an employee for bad and damaging behaviour without following a fair and reasonable procedure?
It can be difficult to understand that even when an incident is serious – perhaps an employee is exhibiting threatening, violent or aggressive behaviour – you still have to follow a process. You can’t just point the finger and shout: “You’re fired.”
In a recent employment tribunal (Harvey v Vista Hotels Ltd) it was brought to light just how important it is to follow a fair and reasonable procedure. Even when the case involves police officers, violence and a dramatic course of events!
After a heated argument Mr Harvey, a hotel Head Chef, attacked two police officers, breaking the finger of one and biting the other’s leg. He then spat blood at the officers and bystanders. He was jailed for 18 months and convicted of GBH.
Six months into his sentence, and still behind bars, he was sacked. His employers bypassed investigation and dismissal procedure, and did not offer him the right to appeal. You can’t criticise the hotel for making a decision to dismiss Mr Harvey, but should they have handled it in a different manner?
Mr Harvey took the hotel to a tribunal. It ruled that whilst they did have a potentially fair reason to dismiss, because they had not followed a fair and reasonable procedure they must pay more than £11,000 to Mr Harvey as compensation.
The hotel demonstrated a reactive approach. The idea of awarding an employee who showed violent and aggressive behaviour compensation seems strange, and it would no doubt be difficult to remain rational in this situation. But this case shows us the importance of following a fair procedure before a dismissal, even in the most heated of kitchens!
A tribunal will always look at any process flaws and how they impact on the decision. In some cases, a tribunal will reduce the compensation amount by up to 100% where a fair procedure would have made no difference to the outcome (after the case of Polkey v AE Dayton Services). However, this should never be relied upon and this case clearly shows this.
In all situations call us for advice and we will guide you through the correct procedure.
This is a blog post authored by The HR Dept Bristol, Bath and North Somerset. Click here to see what they provide to their local business community.