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Put the correct disciplinary allegation

Posted on 1st October 2010
HR practice

The EAT has concluded that a dismissal was unfair where the allegation put to the employee was 'discrepancies in banking'. She was dismissed as she was thought to have stolen the money.

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the allegation should be precisely framed and the employee should only be found guilty of the allegation put to them

Celebi v Scolarest Compass Group UK & Ireland Limited [2010]

Background

Mrs Celebi was employed as a Chef Manager at Merton Sixth Form College. Mrs Celebi collected £3,400 in cash. She put the cash in a bag and handed the bag to Securitas to deliver to the bank. The bank reported that £400 (not £3,400) had been received. Mrs Celebi was suspended and advised an investigation would take place into "serious allegations: Loss of £3,000 cash banking/inaccuracy in banking". A letter was then sent inviting Mrs Celebi to a disciplinary meeting, to consider 'Incorrect reporting of stock figures, Following of financial procedures and Discrepancies in banking." Mrs Celebi was dismissed for "Incorrect reporting of stock figures. Failure to follow the company financial procedures. Discrepancy in banking during September and October 2006." In evidence, however, the dismissing manager repeatedly stated that Mrs Celebi was dismissed because she believed Mrs Celebi had stolen the money.

The decision

The EAT decided that 'an elementary step in the procedure' (telling Mrs Celebi what the allegation was) had not been complied with.

In practice

This case is an important reminder that the allegation should be precisely framed and the employee should only be found guilty of the allegation put to them. In other words employers should not accuse an employee of one thing and dismiss them for another! If it becomes clear during a disciplinary hearing that other allegations should be put to an employee, rather than continue and make a decision, risking an unfair dismissal finding, adjourn the meeting, put the new allegations to the employee and reconvene.

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