Anthony Rob

Conduct dismissal and medical reports

If an employee who is accused of serious dishonesty raises his health as an issue how far does this need to be taken into account? A recent case has highlighted that where an employee’s health may be affecting their conduct or performance an employer should take steps to investigate health issues before deciding whether or not to dismiss.

In British Telecommunications Plc v Daniels it was not disputed that the employee made repeated unauthorised use of his company vehicle, misused his company fuel card and repeatedly ordered items for which he had no work requirement. However he had been suffering from stress and depression for several years and his GP had recommended an occupational health report. The failure to adopt this recommendation meant that the dismissal was found to be unfair.

The requirement for a reasonable investigation to take place prior to any disciplinary action is critical. The legal test is that an employer must hold such investigation as is reasonable in all the circumstances. It can sometimes be the case that a full investigation need not be carried out if the facts are not in dispute but it should not be assumed that an investigation can be dispensed with even where guilt is admitted.

In addition to medical concerns such as arose in this case, factors that can have a bearing upon the extent of investigation required include the seriousness of the allegation, the effect of dismissal upon the employee’s career and the size and administrative resources of the employer.

The case is a reminder that great care must be taken in deciding the amount of inquiry and investigation needed when carrying out disciplinary proceedings involving misconduct. If health issues arise an employer should always consider carefully whether it is necessary to obtain an occupational health report.

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