Reminder of the disciplinary process – one of the most common questions we are asked is:
How much notice do I need to give for a disciplinary hearing?
There is no legal minimum requirement in relation to the notice you need to give for a disciplinary hearing. However, there are a couple of things that you should be guided by
Contract of employment
It is a requirement of the Employment Rights Act 1996 that you include disciplinary rules and disciplinary procedure in the documentation that you give to your employees. You may have, as part of this procedure, a minimum notice period for invitation to disciplinary hearings and, if you do, then you should attempt to stick to it in all circumstances.
A good deal of consideration should be given when including things like this in a policy because if it is included as a contractual policy (policies can be both contractual and non-contractual) then it becomes an expectation which, if not adhered to, can be a breach of contract. Therefore you should be sure that the notice is both realistic and reasonable.
Acas Code of Practice on Disciplinary and Grievance Procedures
This Code does not constitute a piece of legislation in itself, however, it is taken into consideration by an employment tribunal where necessary. Therefore, it can be taken to set out guidance as to what is expected in a reasonable disciplinary procedure. On the topic of informing the employee of a disciplinary issue and holding a hearing, says “The meeting should be held without unreasonable delay whilst allowing the employee reasonable time to prepare their case.”
The term ‘reasonable’ does not offer any useful guidance on how much notice to give, and indicates that in each circumstance, whether there was sufficient notice or not will be down to a tribunal to decide. So what may influence your decision?
If there are reams of evidence to be used at the hearing, the employee may need a couple of days to be able to go through it. If the evidence is made up of a single sheet of records, then it may be reasonable if lesser notice is given.
Many practitioners will state that minimum 2 days’ notice should be given, however, there is no absolute requirement for this and 24 hours’ notice may be perfectly acceptable. In some circumstances where the employer wants to move matters swiftly, and particularly where the employee has a short amount of service, it may be appropriate to tell the employee that a hearing will be held the same day. Where this happens, the employer needs to be aware that such short notice may be challenged by the employee.
In any event, the employee has the right to postpone the hearing for up to 5 days where they wish to be accompanied and it is not possible for their chosen companion to attend at the time suggested by the employer.
Advice should always be taken when inviting an employee to a disciplinary hearing, especially with regard to the amount of notice given.
For further clarification then please contact the Peninsula Advice Service on 0844 892 2772.