Is a higher standard of disciplinary investigation required where a dismissal has career-threatening consequences? Yes, according to the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) in Tykocki v Royal Bournemouth & Christchurch Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust UK.

Tykocki was a healthcare assistant dismissed for gross misconduct following allegations of patient mistreatment, including a specific incident during a night-shift.

The tribunal found that there were procedural failings at the investigation/disciplinary stage but that the trust had reasonable grounds for the decision to dismiss.

The EAT allowed Tykoski’s appeal. It stated that the standard of inquiry required of an employer will depend upon the state of the case against the employee. In this case, further allegations against Tykocki were raised at appeal which the trust did not investigate. The EAT held these might have gone towards the credibility of the original allegations. In addition, the trust failed to obtain witness evidence from other nurses which may have provided the trust with context for the allegations. Whilst in other cases it may not have been necessary to obtain additional evidence, given the ramifications of a finding of gross misconduct on Tykocki’s career, the EAT held that the tribunal should have specifically considered whether failing to obtain this evidence was reasonable. The case was sent back to the tribunal to reconsider in the light of this decision.

The case is a useful reminder that the degree of investigation required will depend on the seriousness of the allegations and the consequences of the outcome on the employee.