Newsflash: Grievance during disciplinary

companionSummary: Does an employer need to put a disciplinary process on hold whilst the employee’s grievance is dealt with?

No, held the EAT in Jinadu v Docklands Buses.

Facts:  The employee, Ms Jinadu, was employed as a bus driver by Docklands Buses Ltd. Her driving was considered to be below acceptable standard e.g. one-hand driving and running a red light. Ms Jinadu was instructed to arrange to have a driving assessment at the employer’s in-house training centre. She repeatedly refused to comply with the instruction and was therefore subject to disciplinary action. At the disciplinary hearing, she complained that her manager and others had bullied her. Despite these complaints the employer dismissed her for gross misconduct.

Ms Jinadu appealed against her dismissal, but was unsuccessful.

Ms Jinadu then brought a Tribunal claim for unfair dismissal. The Tribunal dismissed her claim.   Ms Jinadu appealed to the Employment Appeal Tribunal. One of the employee’s arguments on appeal was that the dismissal was unfair because the employer had not put the disciplinary procedure on hold until the employee’s allegations of bullying had been dealt with as a grievance. The EAT strongly rejected this point of appeal in one sentence:

“I reject [the] submission that the Respondents were obliged to put the disciplinary investigation on hold until they had dealt with the Appellant’s grievances.”

Implications:

Good news for employers! As usual, each case does depend on the facts, for example how the grievance is raised and how it relates to the disciplinary proceedings in question. Nevertheless employers can be reassured from this decision that there is no automatic right for an employee to pause a disciplinary when a grievance has been lodged.