Unfair dismissal case won by medical consultant

This post will address a recent article in the Cambridge News regarding the unfair dismissal of Dr Kapur, a medical consultant at Cambridge University Hospital NHS Trust.

The facts of Dr Kapur’s unfair dismissal case

Dr Kapur commenced employment with the Cambridge University Hospital NHS Trust (“the hospital”) in 2003 as a medical consultant. At the time of his dismissal he was employed as head of the hospital’s neuropsychology department .

Dr Kapur’s problems commenced, he stated, after he complained to senior staff at the Trust about unsupervised and under-qualified staff treating patients at the hospital. He believed that this caused his dismissal in 2010. The Trust, on the other hand, claimed that Dr Kapur’s dismissal was a result of a chronic breakdown of mutual trust and confidence between Dr Kapur and the management at the hospital.

The law relating to unfair dismissal and whistleblowing

Under s.94 of the Employment Rights Act 1996 employees have the right not to be unfairly dismissed by their employers. The employer has to show a potentially fair reason applies for any dismissal (in this case, some other substantial reason) and that the dismissal was procedurally and/or substantively unfair. In order for a dismissal to be procedurally fair the employer must take certain steps to ensure that it has used a fair and objective procedure to collect, analyse and deliberate upon the correct outcome in the disciplinary procedure. A  fair investigation must be carried out, the employee must be able to put their case, the employee should be allowed to appeal, and the employee must be treated fairly and consistently (among other things). The employer should also make a decision to dismiss that is within the range of reasonable responses in the circumstances, in that it conducts a reasonable investigation, it makes an honest decision, and makes a genuine decision.

The Employment Tribunal’s decision in Kapur v Cambridge University Hospital NHS Trust

The Employment Tribunal decided that the hospital was liable for unfair dismissal in the circumstances. However, the decision that he was unfairly dismissed was premised upon a breach of mutual trust and confidence rather than because Dr Kapur had engaged in whistleblowing at the hospital. The Employment Tribunal did not consider that the whistleblowing was the reason for Dr Kapur’s dismissal. It considered that the Human Resources team for the hospital had manipulated the investigation carried out into Dr Kapur’s conduct by coaching witnesses and using Dr Kapur’s computer without authorisation, determining that the investigation and subsequent disciplinary was therefore reduced to a “show trial” and became “meaningless”. The dismissal was therefore found to be procedurally unfair. However, the decision was (it is believed) not found to be substantively unfair as the persons considering the facts of Dr Kapur’s case would have had (it is assumed) no knowledge of the Human Resources Department’s misconduct. Dr Kapur’s compensation was, in the event, subject to a 75% reduction because of his conduct prior to and during the disciplinary procedure (“contributory fault”).

Our specialist employment lawyers’ thoughts on Dr Kapur’s case

Incidents of this nature are believed to be rather unusual but personal opinions of members of staff can, more often than not, distort the outcome of investigations and disciplinary procedures. However, it’s rare that such a systematic attempt to undermine a member of staff occurs and is quite clearly an egregious case of unfair procedure.