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Reasonableness of disciplinary investigation

A recent Court of Appeal case demonstrates that, depending on the circumstances, it will not always be necessary to explore every avenue of defence put forward by an employee and that it will be the reasonableness of the investigation overall that is key.

The Court of Appeal held that an employer’s investigation into an employee’s mileage claims was reasonable. As part of its investigation the employer compared the employee’s mileage claims against the distances calculated on AA Route Planner and his claims for the same journeys a year earlier. The result being that all the claims were almost double that previously claimed, which the employee argued was due to parking difficulties, road works causing diversions and one way systems.

In light of the fact every journey claimed had increased the employer concluded it was not necessary to investigate every claim or explanation put forward by the employee, instead focussing on two particular journeys it considered he should be familiar with in terms of parking facilities and approach routes.

The Court of Appeal agreed and said it was the reasonableness of the investigation as a whole that was relevant but employers should be mindful what will be classed as “reasonable” will depends on the particular facts of each case, had this case involved fewer expenses claims or smaller differences further investigation may have been required.

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