Employers are often criticised for procedural failings when dismissing employees, particularly in redundancy situations. The case of Camelot Group Plc v Mrs A Hogg is a useful reminder that a failure to provide information to an employee in response to a ‘fishing exercise’ will not render a dismissal unfair.
In the case, the Employment Appeal Tribunal (“EAT”) reversed the decision of an Employment Tribunal. The Tribunal had found in favour of Mrs Hogg, who successfully argued she was unfairly dismissed from her role at Camelot Group. The EAT substituted the decision of the Employment Tribunal that Mrs Hogg had been dismissed fairly.
Camelot Group had embarked on a significant reorganisation exercise and made 58 redundancies overall following an extensive consultation process. All employees at risk of redundancy were invited to apply for new roles that were created as a result of the reorganisation. Mrs Hogg was interviewed and assessed for a new role but was unsuccessful and ultimately made redundant.
The case focused in particular on the employee’s request for her redundancy interview notes, which was satisfied by the employer (although these were provided prior to being told her post was redundant, but after the decision to dismiss had been taken. However the Employment Tribunal commented that “it was incumbent on the Respondent (Camelot Group) to give her that information prior to taking the decision to dismiss which the Respondent did not do, and the dismissal is accordingly unfair”.
The EAT disagreed; there is no general rule that an employer must provide such notes to a broad unspecific request for them without reasoned justification for such a request. The Employment Tribunal were wrong to suggest that whenever an employee who is at risk of redundancy asks for information, a dismissal will be unfair if that request has not complied with. In this particular case, Mrs Hogg requested the notes but did not raise any challenge to them in her appeal or subsequently in her claim for unfair dismissal submitted to the Employment Tribunal. It became apparent in the course of proceedings that she did wish to challenge the notes and her scores at the interview, but this was not allowed. As such, the EAT commented that the request for the notes was a ‘fishing exercise’ by Mrs Hogg. Had she raised very specific queries and challenged the notes then, of course it would be expected that the employer would respond to those and provide sufficient information in this regard. This was not the case here.
In many cases it will be in employers’ interests to provide information in response to an employee’s request, partly because it might reduce the risk of an employee pursuing a claim, but also because there may be a substantive issue to deal with. If you are in doubt as to whether you need to provide information, it is always best to take advice.
If you would like to talk through a situation you are dealing with, or if you need advice on any aspect of employment law, please contact any member of the Pure Employment Law team (01243 836840 or [email protected])