In Charalambous v National Bank of Greece, the EAT has decided that in some circumstances, a dismissal can be fair even where the dismissing manager did not meet with the employee directly to discuss the case before deciding to dismiss.
The Claimant was employed as a relationship manager in London. In January 2019, the Claimant emailed a spreadsheet containing a breakdown of all private clients, commission, turnover, assets and further information to her trade union representative and her lawyer. She later forwarded the same email onto her personal email address and her brother who worked at a different bank.
This was considered to be a client data breach and the Claimant’s manager, Mr Vathis held an investigation meeting with her. A different manager, Mr Hood, held a further two face to face disciplinary meetings with the Claimant and her union representative. Mr Hood then wrote up a full report which he sent to Mr Vathis, who then made the decision to summarily dismiss the Claimant without meeting her.
The Claimant brought claims of automatic unfair dismissal and detriment on whistleblowing grounds, ordinary unfair dismissal and race discrimination. The Tribunal dismissed all claims as the reason for her dismissal was gross misconduct. The Claimant was allowed to appeal on whether the dismissal was procedurally fair.
The Claimant sought to rely on previous case law to claim that as the dismissing manager didn’t meet with her prior to deciding to dismiss, the dismissal was unfair. The EAT rejected the Claimant’s argument. The EAT confirmed it is desirable that such a meeting between the employee and dismissing officer takes place and it is good practice to do so, however the important point is the employee has the opportunity to say what he or she wishes to say. That does not mean that such communication cannot be in writing or by way of a report to the dismissing officer.
This case shows how broadly the Tribunals can interpret ‘fairness’ albeit employers are always recommended to have a face to face disciplinary meeting to give employees a chance to state their case. This case however does highlight that the absence of a face to face meeting is not fatal to the fairness of a dismissal, provided the employee has been able to make some form of submission in relation to the allegation(s) against them. It is worth noting that if a disciplinary policy requires a face to face meeting and there is no reasonable explanation for not holding one, failure to follow the disciplinary process is also relevant when considering procedural fairness.
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