The case: The Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) has recently examined a question which often arises for employers: should a disciplinary process be put on hold to deal with a grievance? In this case, Ms Jinadu was employed as a bus driver by Docklands Buses. As her driving was considered to be below an acceptable standard, she was instructed to attend a driving assessment at a training centre. Ms Jinadu repeatedly refused to comply and, following disciplinary proceedings, was dismissed for gross misconduct. During the disciplinary process, Ms Jinadu raised a number of grievances about some of the managers involved in the disciplinary proceedings. Despite the grievances raised, Docklands Buses did not put the disciplinary on hold but instead continued with, and completed, the disciplinary process.
Ms Jinadu brought a claim for unfair dismissal against Docklands Buses. The Employment Tribunal dismissed the claim due to Ms Jinadu’s repeated failure to attend the driving training centre and held that Docklands Buses had acted fairly in dismissing Ms Jinadu. Ms Jinadu appealed. One of the grounds of her appeal, the focus of this summary, was that the dismissal was unfair because Docklands Buses had failed to put the disciplinary proceedings on hold until her grievance had been investigated. This particular ground of appeal was firmly rejected by the EAT. Docklands Buses was not obliged to put the disciplinary on hold until it had dealt with Ms Jinadu’s grievances.
The impact: Although the EAT’s finding on this particular point is brief, it is helpful for employers. It supports the view that there is no automatic need to postpone disciplinary proceedings to deal with grievance allegations. However, this is not to say that it will never be necessary or appropriate for an employer to do this. Such cases often turn on their facts and the decision to delay a disciplinary hearing may depend on the relationship between the grievance and the disciplinary hearing, including whether the employee conducting the disciplinary is involved in the grievance.