In order for a gross misconduct dismissal to be fair, employers need to get over two hurdles: 1) they have the reason for the dismissal and that this falls within the band of reasonable responses, and 2) they have followed a fair procedure in accordance with the ACAS Code of Practice.
The employee had been on maternity leave when allegations of bullying came to light from colleagues. In a case described by the tribunal as a “wholesale disregard of the ACAS Code”, the following points were noted:
Only 24 hours’ notice had been given to attend an investigatory meeting;
No right to bring a representative was advised;
Despite having been prepared, the investigatory report was not disclosed, nor any other evidence;
No advance details of the allegations were given;
The investigation meeting was turned into a disciplinary hearing, where she was dismissed;
The owner had been involved in the investigation and then conducted the disciplinary hearing and made the decision to dismiss;
The allegations did not warrant gross misconduct and her dismissal.
A costly warning to employers to correctly follow the ACAS Code, or seek properly legal advice.
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