An Employment Tribunal expressed astonishment at the BBC's “cavalier disregard” for the disciplinary process when dismissing its former Technology Chief, John Linwood, over a failed £100m Digital Media Initiative (DMI).
On 7th August 2014, the Employment Tribunal gave its “unanimous verdict” that Linwood's unfair dismissal claim was “well founded and would succeed”. It said that he had contributed “to the extent of 15%” to his own dismissal.
The Employment Tribunal found a number of failings with the BBC's conduct including:-
- deciding that Mr Linwood's dismissal was a foregone conclusion in a series of emails prior to the disciplinary hearing;
- interviewing replacements before the disciplinary procedure had begun;
- failing to conduct an investigation before the disciplinary hearing began;
- providing Mr Linwood with thousands of emails to review only a few days before a hearing;
reacting to Mr Linwood's request to postpone the hearing to consider the documents by bringing forward the date of the hearing.
The amount of compensation that will be paid to Linwood, who earned £290,000 a year, will be decided at a Remedy Hearing at the end of August, although the cap for unfair dismissal will be applied and any compensation awarded to him would be reduced by 15% which the Employment Tribunal judged to be the element he contributed.
Given the findings, it is unclear why the BBC fought this case all the way to the Employment Tribunal and this case should be a reminder to employers that a basic level of fairness in disciplinary processes is imperative; the alternative could be a very costly Employment Tribunal case.
10 tips when dealing with a Disciplinary Procedure
- Check whether there is a Company disciplinary procedure that you must follow.
- Familiarise yourself with the principles in the Acas Code of Practice on Disciplinary and Grievance Procedures.
- Ensure a thorough investigation has taken place before deciding on taking disciplinary action.
- Make sure it is set out in writing clearly to the employee before the disciplinary hearing what the allegations are, giving them enough time to prepare for the hearing and inform them of the right to be accompanied at the hearing.
- Ensure that someone is appointed to take notes of the proceedings.
- At the beginning of the disciplinary procedure, outline the procedure to be followed during the hearing to the employee involved.
- Allow the employee to state his or her side of events, explain their conduct and state any mitigating factors.
- Conclude the hearing or adjourn it if new matters are raised that need investigating.
- Weigh up the evidence and decide whether or not a disciplinary sanction is appropriate and, if so, what it should be. Are there any alternatives to dismissal?
- Inform the employee of the decision, the reasons for it and his or her right to appeal.
If you require any advice on this topic or any related topic, please contact a member of the Taylors on 0844 8000 263.