January 09, 2007

So the kangaroo court refused you an appeal hearing...

An [abusive university] employer must normally follow the statutory dismissal procedure before dismissing an employee. Failure to do so results in a finding of automatic unfair dismissal. The statutory dismissal procedure involves three steps:

1. A statement by the employer outlining the grounds which lead the employer to contemplate dismissing the employee and inviting the employee to a meeting.

2. A meeting to discuss the grounds outlined by the employer in the step 1 statement.

3. An appeal if requested by the employee. Upon request, the employer must invite the employee to a meeting, which the employee must take all reasonable steps to attend. After the appeal meeting the employer must inform the employee of its final decision.

In Masterfoods v Wilson UKEAT/0202/06/ZT, the employer applied its contractual disciplinary procedure which required employees who wished to appeal a disciplinary decision to set out the grounds of their appeal in writing within five working days. The employee informed the employer that he wished to appeal but did not submit the grounds of appeal within the specified time limit. When the grounds were submitted, the employer refused to hear the appeal. The employee claimed unfair dismissal and the Employment Tribunal held that the dismissal was automatically unfair as step three of the statutory dismissal procedure (the appeal stage) had not been complied with.

The Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) agreed with the Tribunal. It noted that there is no requirement in the statutory procedures for an appeal to be made in writing, let alone for the grounds of appeal to be set out in writing. The only requirement is for the employee to inform the employer of their wish to appeal. By refusing to go through the appeal process, the employer had not followed the minimum statutory dismissal procedure and had denied the employee his right of appeal. The dismissal was therefore automatically unfair.

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