Sanctions, Internal Appeals and Dismissal
Mr Piper was a Reverend who was employed by an NHS Trust as a lead Chaplain. He was dismissed for gross misconduct, following the completion of a disciplinary procedure on 20 July 2011. Mr Piper subsequently appealed this decision and the outcome was that the Trust allowed the appeal to the extent that it substituted his dismissal for a final written warning, a demotion of his role and a transfer of his work location (so not all good news for Mr Piper!). However, instead of welcoming his job back, Mr Piper informed the Trust that he considered the offer of re-engagement unreasonable. He then lodged an unfair dismissal claim alleging that his employment had terminated on 20 July 2011.
The Trust attempted to defend Mr Piper’s claim on the basis that the effect of the appeal outcome was to remove the earlier dismissal and so the Tribunal did not have jurisdiction to hear his complaint. The Tribunal ultimately agreed with the Trust and rejected Mr Piper’s claim.
Mr Piper subsequently appealed this decision to the Employment Appeal Tribunal ("the EAT"), which reviewed the Trust’s own disciplinary and appeal procedure. Within this procedure, it stated that the employer was not entitled to impose a lesser penalty without an employee’s agreement. With this in mind, as Mr Piper never gave his agreement to his dismissal being revoked the EAT concluded that it still stood.
The above case is fact specific and it fell very much on the appeal policy set out in the Trust’s disciplinary procedure. However, as a learning point, employers would be well advised to ensure that training is given to anyone dealing with disciplinary or appeal hearings, and that they bear in mind what the procedures say and what sanctions are available to them. In order to ensure flexibility when dealing with staff, employers should also take note of perhaps having a wide range of sanctions available to them.
These notes have been prepared for the purpose of an article only. They should not be regarded as a substitute for taking legal advice.