One question we are frequently asked by employers is whether they need to adjourn a disciplinary hearing in order to deal with a grievance the employee has raised. There is no set answer as it depends on the nature of the grievance. As employment law solicitors we are very much alive to the issue that employees may have a genuine grievance relevant to the issues at hand but also that others may just be trying to extend time and delay the inevitable particularly when the allegations they face are potentially gross misconduct. If the grievance is totally unrelated to the disciplinary allegations, an adjournment may not be necessary. Sometimes employees say it is a grievance when really it is not a grievance but their response to the allegations which can be dealt with as part of the process i.e. why they feel they shouldn’t be disciplined etc.
The EAT in Jinadu v Docklands Buses recently held that an employer is not obliged to put a disciplinary process on hold whilst it investigates the matter. The case as always is fact sensitive. The Claimant in this case was a bus driver who was being disciplined for poor driving. During the process she raised a grievance about some of the managers involved in the process. The employer continued with the process then dismissed her. The Tribunal found the dismissal to be fair.
The Claimant appealed and one of the points that she argued was that the dismissal was unfair as the employer had not put the disciplinary proceedings on hold whilst it investigated the grievance which was rejected by the EAT. Failure to do so will thus not render as a matter of principle the dismissal unfair as it will depend on how the grievance is raised and how it interrelates to the disciplinary process in question.
3rd June 2015