Disciplinary Procedures: Back to Basics

Peninsula Team

August 03 2012

For some employers holding a disciplinary hearing can be a daily occurrence but there are employers whom are fortunate and have not had experience in holding a disciplinary hearing. The guidance below will enable you to deal with disciplinary issues as and when they arise.

Informal action

There are situations where the conduct of the employee could be best dealt with informally. If you wish to deal with the conduct informally often a quiet word of caution or advice and encouragement is all that is required to improve an employee’s conduct or performance. However there are situations where matters are more serious or when the informal approach has been tried and unfortunately is not working.

Formal action

The statutory dismissal and disciplinary procedures are set out in the Employment (Northern Ireland) Order 2003. The statutory procedures mean that as an employer you need to follow each aspect of the procedure otherwise should a case be presented to a tribunal they can increase the compensation due to the failure to follow the statutory procedures. So what does this mean to you as an employer? To ensure to follow the statutory process you need to comply with the following steps:

Whilst an investigation does not form part of the statutory disciplinary process, it is often an element which is required for general fairness principles. There are times when the conduct is not so clear and you may be unsure as to whether the employee is fully at fault, an investigation meeting will be essential in these circumstances. The meeting should be held by an employee in a position of authority normally a line manager. A more senior manager should be kept for any formal Disciplinary Hearing as the tribunal will expect to see different managers at each stage of the process increasing in seniority as you progress through the disciplinary process. Should you find yourself in a position where you do not have sufficient independent managers to deal with each stage of the process we will be happy to advise you on the best route.

Step 1:
You need to write to the employee notifying him/her of the allegations against him/her and invite them to a meeting, giving reasonable notice to discuss the matter. However please contact the advice line and we will draft the invite letter for you. The letter will inform the employee of what they have done wrong as they need to be in a position to understand the case against them.

Step 2:
In the meeting you need to go through all of the evidence which has been gathered. The employee should then be given an opportunity to respond to the allegations against them and to put forward any evidence they may have to defend their case. Should the employee which to postpone the meeting to allow them to be represented by a trade union official they can do so but you do not have to postpone the meeting any longer than 5 working days from the day after the original meeting. Once the meeting has been held you then adjourn to make your decision. If you feel that a warning is appropriate this should then be provided to the employee in writing with a right to appeal against the decision.

Step 3:
If the employee appeals, the final step in the statutory process is to hold the Appeal Hearing. During the meeting you need to clarify the reasons for appeal and consider any new evidence which may have come to light. The meeting should then be adjourned before a final decision is made regarding the outcome and followed up in writing.

The above information provides you an insight into how to deal with disciplinary issues, however as we are all aware not all disciplinary hearings are straight forward so when you are faced with an issue with an employee please contact the advice line for assistance.

If you require any further information on the process of redundancy please do not hesitate to contact the advice line on 0844 892 2786.

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