The claimant in Miller v William Hill Organisation Ltd, a deputy manager at a betting shop, was dismissed following an investigation into four bets flagged up as irregular. The employer concluded that she had herself taken a total of £65.15, whilst recording them on the system as having been paid out as winnings or stake returns to customers.
The EAT decided that she had been unfairly dismissed, citing a number of problems with the employer's disciplinary process:
- CCTV footage on the day of the suspicious bets was crucial to the management's suspicions about what the claimant had done. The footage apparently showed that the four customers had not been paid at the time when the system said that they had (the suspicion being that she had taken the money herself). But this suspicion proceeded on the assumption that the timing on the computer, which recorded when the customers were paid, was synchronised with the CCTV timing. In fact, there was a problem - the two mechanisms were not properly synchronised, so that the footage was not aligned with the times when the receipts were processed. And the fact that this was not picked up until shortly before the EAT appeal cast some doubt on the thoroughness of the employer's investigation
- Even without these timing problems, the whole of the five hour CCTV footage should have been viewed as part of the investigation, rather than just the times when the receipts were processed, so that the claimant's assertion that she had paid the winnings to the customers could be verified (and also to see if she had picked up discarded receipts - the only way she could have collected the money for herself)
- The customers had not been interviewed to find out if they had been paid
- The employer did not spell out to the claimant the full nature of their concerns; they referred only to "betting irregularities". The claimant should have been told that she was suspected of theft and that if the outcome of the process was that she was guilty, she would be dismissed.
The EAT's conclusion was that the investigation was not thorough enough. How far an employer must go in investigating facts which might exculpate the employee will depend on the circumstances, including the time it will take, the expense involved and the consequences for the employee of dismissal. In this case, it would not have taken long to go through the complete footage and no expense would have been involved.