Is an employer obliged to pause a disciplinary process while an employee's grievance is dealt with?
The EAT has said no, in the case of Jinadu v Docklands Buses. In this case the employee was employed as a bus driver. She was subject to disciplinary proceedings as a result of her poor driving. During the disciplinary proceedings the employee made allegations about some of the managers involved in the disciplinary process. Despite this, the employer continued with the disciplinary proceedings rather than pausing them and hearing the grievance. The employer eventually went on to dismiss her and the employment tribunal found that her dismissal was fair.
On appeal the employee argued (amongst other things) that the dismissal was unfair because the employer had not put the disciplinary procedure on hold until the employee's allegations had been dealt with as a grievance. The EAT unequivocally rejected this point of appeal saying that the employer was not obliged to pause disciplinary proceedings in these circumstances.
A word of warning though; employers should not take this case as a green light to ignore grievances raised during disciplinary proceedings. This case simply says that a failure to pause disciplinary proceedings will not automatically result in a subsequent dismissal being unfair. The issues raised in the grievance will be relevant, particularly when the complaints are connected to the disciplinary proceedings. Also key will be whether the complaints are about any individuals hearing the disciplinary issues. It is important to highlight that a complete failure to investigate a grievance would be a breach of the (non-statutory) ACAS code which can result in an uplift to any tribunal award of up to 25%.
If you have any doubt about how to react if a grievance is raised during disciplinary proceedings contact your Legal Manager at LAW for advice!