Often employers are found by Employment Tribunals to have investigated only the facts in support of the allegations, not those which support the employee. A fair dismissal needs to be based on a reasonable investigation and if the employer cannot demonstrate that this has taken place then the dismissal will be unfair.
The allegations as set out in the letter of invitation to a disciplinary meeting are of crucial importance. It is a principle of natural justice that an individual must be aware of the allegations against them in order to be able to properly defend themselves. Make sure that the allegations in the letter of invitation properly capture, in plain English, what it is they are accused of doing.
Where an individual may be dismissed following a disciplinary meeting they need to be warned in advance that this is a potential outcome. Informing someone that this is the case means that they cannot argue at a later point that they did not fully understand the seriousness of the matter, or the potential outcome of the disciplinary meeting.
Clearly, each case turns on its own facts, and there may be reasons why an employer imposes a lesser disciplinary sanction on a particular employee than it does on another. However, employers need to be very wary of being capable of justifying any differences in treatment. If the decision is not capable of justification then it may give rise to an unfair dismissal claim, and potentially some form of discrimination claim if the individual can show that the difference in treatment can be explained by their protected characteristic.
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