24th July 2009
Depending on the nature of the allegations to be faced, individuals may be entitled to legal representation at internal disciplinary hearings.
The Court of Appeal has recently handed down its decision in the case of Kulkarni v Milton Keynes Hospital NHS Trust and confirmed the position adopted by the High Court earlier this year. The decision makes it clear that NHS doctors facing charges of misconduct or capability are entitled to legal representation in disciplinary hearings.
The case strongly suggests that if disciplinary charges are so serious that the employee may be unable to work in the future or his career may be jeopardised if the charges are proved, then he has a right to legal representation at internal disciplinary hearings pursuant to the European Convention on Human Rights.
The case obviously has significant implications for those operating in the public sector and given the nature of the case, the principles will almost certainly carry across to the private sector very quickly.
Any employer conducting disciplinary action should now consider whether a finding against the employee could seriously damage his career – particularly where any regulator (such as the FSA) may be involved.