The Claimant in this case, Ms Charalambous, worked as a relationship manager from 2014 for the National Bank of Greece. In 2019 she sent a spreadsheet which contained client details and confidential financial information to her solicitor, union rep, and brother who happened to work for a competitor. She also forwarded this to her personal email.
The Claimant was suspended and her line manager, Mr Vathis, held an investigation meeting with her. Another manager, Mr Hood, held another two meetings in order to discuss the allegations. He compiled an investigation report which was passed back to Mr Vathis who took the decision to dismiss. He wrote to the Claimant to confirm the decision but did not have a meeting to discuss this. The Claimant appealed and an appeal hearing was held. The appeal was unsuccessful and the decision to dismiss was upheld.
The Claimant brought claims of unfair dismissal, race discrimination and detriment based on whistleblowing to the employment tribunal. The tribunal held that the decision to dismiss was within the band of reasonable responses. Although the process was “not ideal” the tribunal was not persuaded that it was unfair.
The Claimant unsuccessfully appealed this decision to the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT). One of the Claimant’s arguments was that the decision maker did not meet her to discuss the dismissal. The EAT noted that whilst this is “desirable” and “good practice” for a meeting to take place it does not follow that dismissal must be unfair if one does not take place.
The EAT also noted that Mr Vathis was the ultimate decision maker and the meetings with Mr Hood were recorded, she was accompanied and was able to set out her case.
This case is not authority to state that such meetings are unnecessary or a dismissal will always be fair without one. The EAT expressly stated that many dismissals would be classed as unfair without such a meeting having taken place. It does however show that the tribunal will consider what is reasonable and what is reasonable can be quite flexible. This case also serves as a good reminder that procedural deficiencies can be cured on appeal. In this case the internal appeal was held by a more senior manager with no prior involvement in the case. He considered the issues, and the tribunal was satisfied his reasons for upholding the decision were genuine.
For employers, the takeaway here is that policies and procedures should be followed, and these should be based on best practice. At the same time, on the occasions that it is not possible to do so the tribunal will be looking to see that the process was reasonable and ultimately fair.
If you have any questions on any of the issues raised in the above article, please contact Natalia Milne.