Disciplinary hearings at work

09 July 2019

Occasions will arise where an employee’s conduct doesn’t meet the standards outlined in their contract or employee handbook.

You should have clear steps in place for what to do when this happens, including oral warnings, written warnings, and dismissal.

But dismissal cases without a proper disciplinary procedure can result in unfair dismissal judgements at tribunals.

Part of that process should include holding a disciplinary hearing with the worker.

In this guide, we’ll explain what a disciplinary hearing is, how to conduct one and provide advice on disciplinary meeting best practices.

What is a disciplinary meeting at work?

A disciplinary hearing is a meeting held between you and an employee to discuss allegations of gross misconduct — or other behaviour that requires disciplinary action.

The hearing’s important to help employers reach a fair decision on a misconduct issue.

What happens in a disciplinary meeting at work?

A disciplinary meeting is an opportunity to explain allegations and present any evidence you have found while investigating the claim.

The hearing is governed by the Acas Code of Practice on Disciplinary and Grievance Procedures.

There is no prescribed format, and neither are their specific questions to ask in a disciplinary investigation meeting. But there are important steps to follow to ensure you act within employment law with your disciplinary meetings.

The key points when attending a disciplinary meeting (or extending an invitation to disciplinary meeting) are that the manager conducting it should:

  • Hold the meeting in private.
  • Give the employee sufficient time to clearly state their case and allow their union representative disciplinary meeting rights so that they may also address the issues raised (if the employee wishes to be represented).
  • Consider any mitigating factors put forward by the employee.

Hearings should be conducted fairly, and employees should be given a disciplinary meeting notice period that is “reasonable”.

Before any disciplinary hearing is convened, the employee should be given:

  • Full written details of the allegations against them.
  • Any evidence supplied by witnesses.
  • Sufficient time to prepare for the meeting.

The above is not an exhaustive list and employers should seek advice on how to conduct a disciplinary meeting to suit their specific circumstances.

The right to be accompanied

Your staff have the right to bring someone with them to a disciplinary hearing. This is called the “right to be accompanied”.

They can be accompanied by either:

  • A colleague.
  • A trade union representative.
  • An official employed by a trade union.

You should always make sure your employee knows about their right to bring a union representative to the disciplinary meeting. Otherwise the employee could bring a claim against you.

You can also allow other people to attend, but you’re not required to.

Can you record a disciplinary meeting?

All stages of the disciplinary process should be recorded in writing. It is important to have written evidence to show what information the employee was given, what was said at the hearing, what decision was reached, and so on.

You can make audio or video recordings of the hearing also. It’s best practice to let other parties know that you intend to do this before starting the recording though.

What happens after a disciplinary meeting?

After the hearing is over, you should:

  • Explain the decisions made at the disciplinary outcome meeting — this can also be presented in writing.
  • Confirm the decision in writing.
  • Ensure that hearing notes are correct and filed properly – detailed records can protect you in the event of an unfair dismissal claim.
  • Ensure the employee is given the right to appeal.

Expert support on disciplinary hearings with Peninsula

Even with crystal-clear policies on what you expect from workers, there will be times when you need to discipline someone. And depending on the type of misconduct, you might need to let people go.

If you don’t follow a proper disciplinary procedure, you could face unfair dismissal claims and a costly tribunal.

Get our expert team to draft your disciplinary policy for you. Peninsula clients get access to 24/7 HR advice to speak with our specialists and ensure legal compliance.

And if you’re not yet a client, you can still enjoy a free advice call from one of our business experts. Simply call us on 0800 028 2420

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