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Dismissal In Absentia

Yesterday I chaired a disciplinary meeting and dismissed an employee in her absence. This was the third attempt to hold the meeting. It had twice been rescheduled to accommodate the employee and this time she simply failed to show.

I considered the facts in her absence and made a decision based on the information available to me. Sometimes employees choose not to attend disciplinary hearings.

While it’s always best to try to persuade the employee to attend, it is quite possible to fairly dismiss an employee who does not show up. Always give employees plenty of notice of disciplinary hearings, but you can go ahead with a disciplinary hearing where, despite you best efforts, the employee has failed to respond. Example: APCOA operates car parks.

Mr. Perara worked for them as a contract manager. His job was to sell season tickets at the highest price he could. Typically the price of annual season tickets in London at that time was around £6,000 per year. In late 2008, a customer queried an invoice for six annual season tickets with APCOA. The invoice was from a company called Car Park Solutions Ltd (CPSL).

APCOA investigated and found that Mr. Perara owned CPSL. It became clear that through CPSL Mr. Perara had been invoicing customers for season tickets at more than APCOA’s rates, and keeping the excess money and over a three year period.

Mr. Perara claimed that this arrangement had been authorised by a former line manager, but there was no evidence to support his assertion. APCOA invoked the formal disciplinary procedure and Mr. Perara was dismissed for gross misconduct. He complained of unfair dismissal, arguing that he had not been given sufficient notice of the disciplinary hearing – which had been rearranged once – and that, when he failed to attend the second time, it was held in his absence.

The tribunal found that although Mr. Perara had not been given enough notice of either disciplinary hearing, his employer had acted reasonably in holding the meeting in his absence.

Mr. Perara knew that the meeting was going to take place and the onus was on him to contact APCOA to ask for more time, which he did not do. His dismissal was fair. Following Mr. Perara’s dismissal, the High Court ordered him to make an interim payment to APCOA of £140,000. Perara v APCOA Parking UK Ltd [2010].

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