For a dismissal to be fair, the employer must have a fair reason for dismissal and must have acted reasonably in treating that reason as sufficient to justify dismissal.
The Court of Appeal in Shrestha v Genesis Housing Association was asked whether the obligation to conduct a reasonable investigation means an employer must investigation every aspect of an employee’s defence to an allegation of misconduct. Its answer was no: an employer can decide something is too implausible to investigate.
Mr Shrestha’s expenses claims were examined over a three month period and it was discovered that he had claimed excessive mileage – every journey he had claimed was above the AA suggested mileage and, in some, instances, significantly greater. When questioned, he claimed difficulties in parking, one way road systems and roadwork’s, road closures and diversions were to blame. The employer did not look into these reasons for the additional mileage and dismissed Mr Shrestha for gross misconduct.
The Court of Appeal was clear in its decision that the tribunal was required to consider whether the employer had carried out as much investigation into the matter as was reasonable in the circumstances. But the band of reasonable responses test applies to an investigation into alleged misconduct as well as to the reasonableness of the decision to dismiss.
The Court of Appeal held that the investigation was reasonable and should not be interfered with. To say that each line of defence put forward must be investigated unless it is manifestly false or unarguable is to adopt too narrow an approach. The investigation should be looked at as a whole when considering the question of reasonableness. Mr Shrestha dismissal was therefore fair.