EAT determines whether Jhuti can apply to reasonableness of dismissal (Uddin v London Borough of Ealing [2020] UKEAT/0165/19/RN)

In Uddin v London Borough of Ealing [2020] UKEAT/0165/19/RN the Employment Appeal Tribunal considered the case of Royal Mail Group Ltd v Jhuti (our analysis of Jhuti here) and extended it to cover the reasonableness of a decision to dismiss as well as the reason.

The facts in Uddin v London Borough of Ealing

Mr Uddin (the ‘Claimant’) worked for the London Borough of Ealing (the ‘Respondent’).  He was dismissed for gross misconduct for behaving inappropriately towards an intern at after work drinks in a pub. The intern alleged that the Claimant had dragged her to the toilet and assaulted her.

After the investigation but before the disciplinary hearing, the investigating officer learned that an allegation of sexual assault made about the incident to the police by the intern had been withdrawn. The investigating officer never told the dismissing officer this piece of information and the dismissing officer relied in part on the fact that a complaint had been made to the police when preferring the complainant’s account of events.

The Claimant brought various complaints in the Employment Tribunal (‘ET’) including unfair dismissal.

The decision of the Employment Tribunal

The ET concluded that the dismissal was fair, notwithstanding the fact that the dismissing officer was never advised the complaint had been withdrawn.  They held that there was sufficient evidence before the dismissing manager to decide the Claimant was guilty of misconduct even though a complaint to the police had not been made.

The Claimant appealed to the Employment Appeals Tribunal (‘EAT’),

The decision of the Employment Appeal Tribunal

The EAT allowed the Claimant’s appeal.

The Claimant representatives argued that the Supreme Court’s decision in Royal Mail Group Ltd v Jhuti meant the investigating officer’s knowledge that the police complaint had been withdrawn should have been attributed to the Respondent as the employer in deciding on the Claimant’s dismissal.

The EAT held stated that Jhuti was concerned with situations where a manager had manipulated evidence or where the investigating officer had a different reason for acting from the dismissing officer, but the principles established by the Supreme Court in the case were broader.

Jhuti extended more widely in that the knowledge or conduct of a person other than the person who actually decided to dismiss could be relevant both in relation to consideration of the reason for dismissal and/or its consideration of the reasonablenessof the decision to dismiss for the given reason (as in the Claimant’s case).  As a result, the investigating officer’s failure to share a material fact with the dismissing manager was relevant to the consideration of whether the dismissal was fair.  

In the Claimant’s case the dismissing officer knew there had been a police complaint and had attached some weight to that fact in deciding to dismiss. She had also stated that had she known of the withdrawal of the complaint she would have wanted to understand the reason for it. She had made a decision on behalf of her employer without the benefit of clearly relevant knowledge which the employer had in its possession.

The EAT held that if the ET had approached the issue correctly, it would have found the Claimant’s dismissal was unfair.  The EAT therefore substituted a finding of unfair dismissal.  

Our solicitors’ views on the case of Uddin v London Borough of Ealing

Sacha Barrett, a Senior Associate in the employment department at Redmans, made the following comments on the case: “This case emphasises the importance of a dismissing officer being provided with all of the relevant information known by the employer when being asked to make a decision on whether or not to dismiss an employee.  As a failure to do so could result in a finding of unfair dismissal, it makes sense to ensure investigating officers understand their duties do not necessarily end once the decision to decision to proceed with a disciplinary process has been made.’

The decision of the Employment Appeal Tribunal in Uddin v London Borough of Ealing [2020] UKEAT/0165/19/RN can be found here.