Whilst there is no longer a statutory procedure that must be followed, employers must consider the provisions of the Acas Code of Practice on Disciplinary and Grievance Procedures when disciplining or dismissing. Failure to follow the Code will not of itself make an employer liable to tribunal proceedings, but a tribunal will take the Code into account when it is deciding whether a dismissal is fair. Where it was not followed, the tribunal may adjust the monetary award given to the employee for an unfair dismissal.
The Code sets out the basic steps that it is expected an employer will follow when disciplining and ultimately dismissing an employee.
Investigate the problem: An employer should not assume that an employee has broken a rule or carried out an act of misconduct – he should try and find out facts and this may include holding an investigatory meeting with the employee.
Inform employee of the problem: The employee should be invited to a disciplinary hearing and the letter of invitation should set out in as much detail as possible the misconduct.
Employee should have the opportunity to put their case: a disciplinary hearing should be held where the employer should explain the problem and allow the employee to have their say, ask any questions relevant to the matter and produce witness statements to corroborate their side of the story.
Allow employee to be accompanied to the hearing: this can be by a colleague or a trade union official.
Decide on appropriate action: this will depend on the severity of the alleged misconduct and can be dismissal if it is considered gross misconduct. Otherwise a warning at the appropriate level will be given.
Give right of appeal: The employee should be allowed to challenge your decision at which point you should hold an appeal meeting, again allowing the employee to be accompanied.
Where the act is not gross misconduct, the process above will need to be repeated with an increased level of warning being given until dismissal is the final option.
Procedures may vary dependent on the specific facts so advice should always be taken.
For any further clarification, please call our 24 Hour Advice Service on 0844 892 2772.