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Charalambous v National Bank of Greece - Unfair dismissal: fairness of procedure
The claimant in this case was dismissed following an incident where she emailed the respondent's Country Manager & several other senior managers, her union rep and her solicitor an email with an attachment containing a breakdown of all private clients including commissions, turnover, total assets, year-end comparisons, foreign exchange transactions and total assets by currency. The claimant then sent the same email to her personal email, copying in her brother (who worked for another bank) and to the respondent's HR manager.
The claimant was suspended pending disciplinary investigations based on a data breach, specifically “unauthorised disclosure of confidential client information to a third party”.
In the formal disciplinary hearing, the claimant alleged she had sent the email by accident as she was tired and felt that she had been targeted.
Company policy was followed and the Country Manager decided to summarily dismiss the claimant on the basis her explanation that it was a mistake was unsatisfactory, as it had happened three times and to three different parties.
The claimant appealed, arguing that dismissal was too severe a sanction and the ‘accident’ happened as a result of work-related stress and tiredness. She also raised that the decision maker had not attended either of her disciplinary hearings.
This appeal was not upheld. The appeal chair, the respondent’s HR director, found that the claimant had breached confidentiality and client trust, which, he felt, were cornerstones of banking.
The claimant then made various claims, one of which was unfair dismissal.
The case went through the tribunal and the appeals tribunal. The tribunals found that although there were blurred lines between investigation and hearing because the decision makers had not attended the hearing, separate people had been involved at each stage of the process and this was successfully addressed at the appeal hearing, held by the HR Manager. The tribunal found the outcome to be within the range of reasonable responses.
Employers should take from this case reassurance that as long as their process as a whole has been reasonable, and the employee has had opportunity to properly present themselves, then any minor issues within that process will not necessarily render a decision unfair. Fairness, therefore, is a broad term within which an ET will have a wide discretion to make their decision.
Flexible Working Consultation
With the law due to change on entitlement to request flexible working, ACAS are asking for feedback on a new code of practice.
The consultation, which closes on 6 September 2023, includes information on:
who should be allowed to accompany an employee at meetings to discuss a request
the need for transparency about reasons for rejecting a request
the guidance that employers should proactively offer an appeal where a request has been rejected.
Mental Health of Employees Affected by Cost of Living Crisis
A new survey by ACAS has revealed that the mental health of nearly 47% of British workers has suffered due to the rising cost of living.
Participants were asked: “To what extent, if at all, would you say your mental health has been affected negatively by the rising cost of living?” In reply, 10% said significantly and 37% said moderately.
Employers should aim to create a culture where staff can talk openly about their mental health, without judgement, and access tools to support them at work:
be approachable and available to your team to talk
schedule regular check ins with staff to check how they are in general
Stay calm, patient and supportive if an employee wants to talk about their mental health
Consider whether reasonable adjustments can be made to support staff at work
Clearly communicate the support available to staff both internally and externally
Whilst employers should remain supportive, it's important to remember that you are not expected to be a doctor or a therapist etc. Sometimes the best support you can give an employee is a listening ear and signposting them to where they can access further support. Overall, employees have to take ownership of their own mental health and take positive steps to help themselves.