Businesses will welcome helpful guidelines provided by the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) on how much involvement and influence HR should have in disciplinary investigations. What is crucial is that HR limits advice to questions of law, procedure and process, and avoids straying into areas of culpability. In particular, HR should not advise on what an appropriate sanction should be, outside of addressing issues of consistency. Significant influence by HR in the outcome of an investigation could potentially compromise the fairness of the investigation process and result in an unfair dismissal.
In this case, the EAT allowed an appeal against the decision of an employment judge that an employee had been fairly dismissed in circumstances where the investigating officer’s recommendations had been heavily influenced by input from HR. The investigating officer’s report originally recommended a finding of misconduct and a sanction of a written warning, but after numerous comments and amendments by HR, the final report found the employee to have committed gross misconduct, and recommended immediate dismissal.