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Do employers always have to hold investigatory meetings before dismissal?

An employee was called to an investigatory meeting, following allegations of sleeping at work, being warned it may lead to a disciplinary hearing. The employer treated the meeting as a disciplinary hearing and dismissed the employee. They claimed unfair dismissal based on the failure to hold a separate investigatory meeting made the dismissal procedurally unfair.

The employer argued that under the ACAS Code and case law, they were only required to carry out “as much investigation into the matter as was reasonable in all the circumstances of the case”.

The tribunal agreed but taken as a whole, found that there had not been a reasonable investigation in the circumstances, and the employee had not been given a proper opportunity to prepare for the hearing. Thus the dismissal was unfair, which the EAT agreed with.

  • It should be noted that provided employers act reasonably, failure to hold an investigatory meeting is not, of itself, determinative of whether a dismissal is procedurally unfair. The problem in this case is that the employee was taken by surprise and not provided with the opportunity to prepare and put his case forward before dismissal.

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