In the Employment Appeal Tribunal (‘EAT’) case of K v L, it was held that it was unfair to dismiss a teacher accused of possessing a computer containing indecent child images when he wasn’t prosecuted and it was unclear who had downloaded the images. The Claimant had been charged after the police found a shared computer at his home containing indecent images but they were unable to establish who had downloaded the images. The School took disciplinary action, basing the allegation around the teacher’s involvement in the police investigation, without referring directly to concerns over reputational damage. The Claimant denied responsibility for the images. The dismissing manager dismissed the Claimant due to an irretrievable breakdown of trust and confidence, concerned that it could not be shown that he had not downloaded the images and due to the risk of reputational damage were he to be prosecuted in the future. The EAT held the dismissal to be unfair due to the employer not giving the employee notice of the ground upon which dismissal was sought and that it was not reasonable to dismiss the Claimant on the basis that he might have committed the offence.
In unusual circumstances, the EAT found that the employer could fairly dismiss an employee without any procedure in the case of Gallacher v Abellio Scotrail. The Claimant was a senior manager in the Respondent’s business. Her relationship with her line manager deteriorated at a critical time for the Respondent. The Claimant’s manager decided that there was no option but to dismiss her at an appraisal meeting with no procedure or right of appeal. The tribunal found the dismissal to be fair given the unusual circumstances. The EAT declined to overturn the decision. Employers should note that the circumstances under which it would be reasonable for an employer to take such action, without following a fair process, will arise rarely.