Can an employer reject the decision of an appeal panel? A decision of the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) has confirmed that there will be circumstances where it is fair for an employer to reject the decision of an appeal panel and proceed to dismiss an employee. We take a look at the case and how this may affect employers in a similar situation.
In the case of Kisoka v Ranpinyotip T/A Rydevale Day Nursery, the claimant was suspected of starting a fire in her workplace. Following an investigation into the incident the claimant was dismissed for gross misconduct. The claimant's employer was a small organisation and did not have anyone who could hear the appeal against her dismissal. The employer took advice and appointed an independent body to hear the appeal. The Acas Code of Practice recommends that wherever possible employee appeals should be heard by someone not previously involved in the disciplinary process and, if possible, by a more senior manager than the one who dealt with the disciplinary hearing.
In this case, the panel upheld the employee's appeal on the grounds that there was insufficient evidence to support the allegations against her. However despite the panel being appointed to hear the appeal, and to form part of the disciplinary process, the employer refused to implement the decision of the appeal panel and continued to support the position to dismiss the employee.
The claimant took the employer to an employment tribunal on the grounds that she felt the dismissal had been unfair. A Tribunal found in the employer's favour and held that the dismissal was fair.
The claimant appealed to EAT on the ground that an employer could only reject the decision of an appeal panel in exceptional circumstances and in the present circumstance she had not been afforded a fair appeal. The EAT concluded that there was no requirement for an exceptional circumstance before the employer can depart from the decision of the appeal panel. The test in each unfair dismissal case remains the reasonableness of the decision and the Tribunal in this case was able to find that the employer's approach to the appeal decision didn't render the dismissal unfair overall.
Although the individual circumstances of each case will remain to be determined, this EAT decision will be welcomed by some employers who utilise external organisations or bodies to hear their employee's appeals.
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