How you hold a disciplinary hearing plays a significant role in a tribunal’s view of whether an employer has acted reasonably in all circumstances – vital to attaining a finding of a fair dismissal. Communication is key. Read this article to find out how to increase the level of communication to prevent any confusion.

A disciplinary hearing is your opportunity to question an employee on their breach of rules or other circumstances that have brought them to the hearing.

Your questions and responses should be pitched correctly in order to ascertain the information you need in order to make your decision and clarify the points make in order to leave no room for misunderstanding.

Here are some top tips on how best to communicate at the hearing:

  • Prepare your questions in advance so that you aren’t caught on the hop. Make sure you fully understand what it is the employee is being accused of – sometimes this can include special terminology and detail on certain processes so do your homework before your enter the room. You want to be in a position to understand immediately what the employee tells you which allows your contribution to the meeting to flow better;
  • Use open questions to illicit explanations in the employee’s responses. Use “What”, “where”, “when”, “who” and “why” rather than questions that leave room for only a “yes” or “no” answer. For example, “Can you tell me the process you used when you…..” is better than “Did you follow normal process on that day?” because the employee must explain how he behaved;
  • Reflect back to the employee what he has said in response to you and then ask him to confirm your understanding, for example, “So what you are saying is….” and follow with “Is that correct?” If you did mishear or misunderstand, the employee is given the chance to put you right;
  • Keep on track. If the employee appears to be veering off topic, bring them back round gently. Avoid “I didn’t ask you that question, I asked you…..” and instead use “That’s an interesting point but it isn’t relevant to what I want you to talk about”;
  • Ask the employee if there is anything else that they would like to mention in defence of the allegations that has not been touched on already. This also gives them the opportunity to summarise their main points of defence or mitigation;
  • At the end of the meeting, inform the employee of the next steps so they know what to expect from you and how long approximately they will have to wait for a decision.

For further clarification of this or any other matter relating to employment law in schools or other education establishments, clients should call the specialist Education Team on 0844 892 2810.