The Role of HR in Disciplinaries
- Date: Thursday 29th September 2016
In the recent case of Ramphal vs The Department for Transport, courts put out a clear message to overzealous HR professionals.
Mr Ramphal was accused of fraudulently claiming expenses. The investigating manager discovered some anomalies and mitigating circumstances but the internal HR Advisor effectively told the disciplining manager to disregard the findings and dismiss Mr Ramphal.
Rightly, the courts found in favour of the employee, who brought a claim for unfair dismissal against the employer. The message was clear: HR representatives must not interfere with the investigation process of a disciplinary unless they do so within the realms of their assigned responsibilities.
But what does this mean for employers?
Do Employers have to declare that they receive HR guidance?
No. As long as the guidance is based on process, not the actual decision, employers are free to consult with professionals internally and externally.
Are HR professionals allowed to partake in the disciplinary process?
Yes. But you must be clear about the role of each individual.
Arguably, letting a HR Advisor make the decision on a disciplinary concerning a worker may not be appropriate, since they may not have all the facts and knowledge to make a sound decision. However, in some organisations, HR Managers are very much operationally integrated and perfectly competent to contribute. The key lies in the distribution of responsibilities: one person cannot be judge and jury. So if HR lead the investigation, they must not make the decision and visa versa.
So who should assume which role?
This is the key to any sound investigation and will depend on the nature of the allegation. Essentially, you need to distribute the following roles:
- Disciplining Manager – chairs the meeting and ultimately makes the decision.
- Investigating Officer – holds interviews, gathers evidence and presents all the facts to the Disciplining Manager and the Employee before the meeting.
- Minute Taker – Present during the meeting, takes and distributes notes.
- Professional Support – HR professionals or legal representatives may provide process guidance and help construct letters, without adding content but instead focussing on legal requirements and form only.
Source: SSG - Manuela Grossmann