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Proper Limits to HR's Role in Disciplinary Situations

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 Thanks to Sarah Fitzpatrick of Collingwood Legal for preparing this case summary

Can a dismissing or investigating officer seek guidance or advice from human resources?

Yes, held the EAT in Ramphal v Department for Transport, relying on the Supreme Court decision in West London Mental Health NHS Trust v Chhabra, but such advice should be limited to questions of law and procedure and not stray into areas of culpability.

The central issue was whether the Employment Judge had properly considered an inference that the HR department had inappropriately lobbied the dismissing officer as to the culpability of the Claimant and the appropriate sanction to impose.

HHJ Serota found that there was evidence to support "an inference of improper influence and the Employment Judge should have given clear and cogent reasons for accepting there was no such influence" (para 54). Accordingly the appeal was allowed and the case was remitted to the original employment tribunal for a rehearing.

Useful guidance is given at at para 56, "an employee facing disciplinary charges and a dismissal procedure is entitled to assume that the decision will be taken by the appropriate officer, without having been lobbied by other parties as to the findings he should make as to culpability.....and also given notice of representations made by others to the Dismissing Officer that go beyond legal advice, and advice on matter of process and procedure."