Disciplinary procedures can be difficult to get right on account of their complex nature. But it’s important you follow a correct and fair process throughout to avoid any claims of unfair dismissal. This guide explains all you need to know about the process and what you should consider
Code of practice
The Acas Code of Practice on Disciplinary and Grievance Procedures offers useful practical guidance and sets out principles for handling the situation. Although failing to follow the code isn’t unlawful, a tribunal will take this into account when ruling on relevant cases. You should refer to the code during procedures as it provides guidance on numerous aspects of the process. This includes how to conduct an investigation and the appropriate notice of disciplinary hearing procedure required when holding a hearing. You can also read our advice on common disciplinary mistakes to ensure you follow the right procedures in the build-up to any legal action with an employee.
Notice to attend a disciplinary hearing
The code states that once a full investigation is complete an employee should, without unreasonable delay, receive an invitation to a disciplinary hearing. While you may choose to inform staff verbally, the code requires formal invitation submission in writing. This is part of a good record keeping process. Employees must receive a reasonable amount of disciplinary notice when it comes to inviting them to a hearing. But there’s no further official explanation on what’s reasonable. The amount of notice will depend on a number of factors including the amount of evidence collected during the interview process. The employee will need sufficient time to review this evidence and prepare their case before the hearing takes place. The disciplinary hearing notice period should also offer an employee the chance to have a colleague or trade union representative present with them. This is a right they have under the code of practice. Keep in mind that this may take several days to arrange. Although this depends on the location and availability of the individual an employee wishes to involve. As a result, you should allow enough time for your employee to complete the process. Failure to do so could lead to claims you’re preventing the employee from exercising their statutory right.
If the employee, or their chosen representative, is unable to attend the meeting on the agreed date, they can suggest an alternative time to reschedule the hearing. The code dictates this alternative date is reasonable. This prevents the employee from deliberately trying to delay the hearing. As such, the law allows employees to postpone the hearing for up to five working days from the date of the original hearing. When faced with the prospect of a disciplinary hearing, you may understandably want to get it over with as fast as possible. However, it’s important you resist the temptation to fast-track the proceedings. This ensures employees receive a fair and reasonable disciplinary hearing notice period before it takes place.
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