The Importance of double checking the evidence in a disciplinary case.
In this case, Royal Mail made a significant blunder in “ignoring conclusive evidence’ during a disciplinary process.
They fired an employee for misusing special leave when in fact the evidence demonstrated that the alleged misconduct did not actually happen.
Mr Vorajee was an employee of Royal Mail with 16 years’ service.
On the 10th March 2016, he had made a flight booking to Mumbai but had to cancel the trip as his wife had an accident and was incapacitated.
Instead, Vorajee made a request to his employer for special leave to look after his wife and children.
He was permitted to take special leave from 10-24 of March.
Before the accident, Mr Vorajee had pre-booked annual leave from 25 March and was due to return to work at the beginning of April.
During this annual leave he spent some time in Abu Dhabi, but when he tried to get on his return flight home on 1 April, he was denied boarding as the UAE government had placed a travel ban on him.
Mr Vorajee kept in regular contact with Royal Mail during this ban.
The ban wasn’t lifted until 24 July, but, during this period, Mr Vorajee was dismissed on the grounds of him being unlikely to return to work in the near future.
When Mr Vorajee returned to the UK he appealed this decision and produced documentary evidence of his flights.
Royal Mail found evidence of flights that suggested he had travelled to the UAE while he was supposedly on special leave, and they began an investigation.
During the investigation, Mr Vorajee did not initially provide a copy of his passport, which strengthened Royal Mail’s belief that he had behaved dishonestly over his special leave.
He was subsequently dismissed for gross misconduct.
Unfortunately for Royal Mail, the tribunal found they had misread the flight booking document, which should have been read from the bottom up.
It was clear on further inspection that Mr Vorajee had not left the country during his special leave as his employer had suspected.
The tribunal found that Royal Mail didn’t have enough evidence to find that Vorajee had left the country whilst on special leave, or that he had flown anywhere in March outside of his pre-arranged annual leave.
It was found that he had been unfairly dismissed.
This is a stark reminder that employers should consider the evidence carefully and any investigation must be objective, without simply focusing on an “end goal”.
Preconceived ideas can restrict a fair disciplinary process.