In 2017, Mr Radia, a Managing Director in a financial services company, brought a disability discrimination claim against his employer, Jeffries. The Employment Tribunal (“ET”) found that the evidence Mr Radia gave during the proceedings was “not credible” and “on lots of occasions evasive”, and his discrimination claim failed.
Jeffries dismissed Mr Rada for gross misconduct as a result of the first ET’s findings on his credibility. In particular, the employer was concerned about Mr Radia’s fitness and propriety in carrying out his role, which was regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority.
The company carried out a disciplinary process, but Mr Rada was not invited to an investigation meeting because Jeffries relied on the ET’s judgement as justification to proceed with the disciplinary action. Jeffries also decided not to invite Mr Radia to an appeal hearing after receiving his written grounds of appeal against the decision to dismiss him.
Following his dismissal, Mr Radia brought a number of claims in the ET including unfair dismissal. As part of his unfair dismissal claim, Mr Radia argued that his employer had acted unfairly by denying him the opportunity to attend an investigation meeting and by failing to offer him an appeal hearing following his dismissal.
The ET held that that there was no requirement for an investigation meeting to be held as part of a disciplinary process either under statute or the Acas Code of Practice. Further, the ET was of the view that the employer’s reliance on the first ET’s judgement as justification to proceed with the disciplinary action, fell within the range of reasonable responses.
With regards to the failure to hold an appeal hearing, the ET found that this was “wholly irregular, contrary to best practice”, a breach of the Acas Code and contrary to the employer’s own disciplinary policy. However, the ET also found that an internal disciplinary appeal would not have made any difference to the outcome: therefore Mr Radia’s dismissal was not found to be unfair.
Mr Radia appealed against the ET’s unfair dismissal finding.
The Employment Appeal Tribunal (“EAT”) held that the ET had correctly applied the range of reasonable responses test when considering whether it was fair for the employer to rely on the first ET judgement instead of holding an investigation meeting.
In respect of the failure to conduct an appeal meeting, the EAT found that the ET had not approached this correctly (by finding that it was unfair to not carry out a procedural step (the appeal hearing) but then holding that the dismissal was fair because that procedural failure would have made no difference). The question the ET should have asked was whether, at the time, the employer reasonably believed that an appeal hearing would have been futile. The EAT therefore found that Mr Radia’s dismissal was unfair.
This case is a reminder of the importance of following a correct disciplinary and appeal procedure. We so often see the basic steps of checking your own policies and the Acas Code of Practice being overlooked. There may be good reasons for departing from them in some unusual situations, but this should always be approached with care.