Employment Partner, Makbool Javaid, shares thoughts on unfair dismissal case at Brighton and Hove FC

6th March 2024

Employment Partner Makbool Javaid has shared his thoughts on a recent case pertaining to a teacher at Brighton and Hove FC’s football academy, who won an unfair dismissal claim after being accused of using a derogatory slur.

“The decision in this case highlights the need for extreme care in carrying out HR investigations especially where there is a dispute as to the facts, the outcome could lead to the loss of employment and/or involves potential reputational damage to the employer.

“This case involved all these factors and the tribunal was not persuaded that the employer had carried out a robust and credible investigation. The employer had rightly taken the allegation of a racially abusive term being used in the workplace seriously and undertook a prompt investigation. So far so good, but there were flaws identified by the tribunal which led it to conclude that the decision to dismiss amounted to unfair dismissal.

“The Courts have made it clear that an employer does not have to comply with the high standards expected of a judicial investigation requiring a forensic analysis of the evidence by a trained and highly experienced lawyer. However, the lack of training , resources and other work pressures do not always give employers much of a defence if the circumstances ought to have merited a more objective and thorough approach during the investigation process.

“The need to deal with workplace investigations correctly is not only a legal obligation but a consistent and fair approach is important in promoting positive workforce relations.

“It’s a high risk area that deserves adequate resources.

“The SMB employment team have experience of carrying out investigations in a transparent manner, with the utmost care and confidentiality. When the issues are complex and/or sensitive and the stakes are high, it’s well worth the investment of time and resources to bring in a specialist rather than hope that a Tribunal will give you the benefit of the doubt.

“It is more likely that however sincere you are the need for robustness outweighs the well intentioned amateur.”