Employers need to be particularly diligent when conducting disciplinary meetings. They can often be difficult and if not conducted properly, following due processes, they can leave employers open to the risk of unfair dismissal claims. That’s why we’ve put together 5 clear steps that employers should follow when conducting a disciplinary meeting to ensure that it’s both effective and fair.
A reasonable investigation means that the matter is reviewed and investigated fairly, with both sides of the argument looked into, without bias and with evidence having been collected methodically. At this stage and during the rest of the disciplinary proceedings, if your company has an internal disciplinary policy, it’s essential that this is followed along with the Code of Practice on Disciplinary and Grievance Procedures set out by the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS), as failure to follow this code and your own policies can result in a possible unfair dismissal ruling and the risk of up to a 25% increase on any compensation claims.
Put it in Writing, With Supporting Evidence
Once the investigation is complete, the employee must be formally invited to the disciplinary hearing in writing. The employee must have a reasonable amount of time to consider the allegations and evidence and prepare a defence, so ensure that sufficient time is provided between notification and the hearing.
The letter to the employee must contain all of the details of the allegations and all of the evidence that was collected during the investigation that may be used against them. If dismissal is a possible and or probable outcome, this must be stated. The employee must also be informed of their right to be accompanied to the disciplinary meeting by a trade union representative or a co-worker.
An Impartial Chairperson
It’s essential that the meeting is chaired by an impartial person, perhaps a manager who has no previous material involvement in the issue, such as being a witness or an investigator. For a small organization this can sometimes be difficult but an external HR consultant can provide specially trained people to conduct such meetings.
The meeting must take place at a reasonable time and venue and notes should be taken by someone not previously involved in the process. Before commencing, the chair should remind the employee of their right to be accompanied, if they present themselves unaccompanied.
The employee must be allowed respond to all allegations and refute any evidence they may wish to. At the end of the meeting the employee must be given a chance to make a closing statement. It’s also very important to note that if the employee comes to the meeting accompanied, then their companion may make statements and or ask questions on behalf of the employee but at no time may they answer a question put directly to the employee.
Confirm the Outcome in Writing
The final decision of the meeting must be communicated to the employee in writing, with a full and clear explanation of the proceedings, process and decision.
Before the final decision is made it’s best to adjourn the meeting to take time to consider the case before arriving at a final decision. If a decision is delivered without breaking to consider, the decision can be considered ‘pre-judged’ and leave room for legitimate unfair dismissal claims. Also, if new evidence or issues have come to light, further investigation may be needed. Once decided, the employer may reconvene the meeting to deliver the decision.
Fundamental Right of Appeal
When communicating the final decision of the disciplinary meeting to the employee in writing, they must be clearly reminded of their fundamental right of appeal. Instructions on how to appeal must also be clearly included. If they choose to appeal, then this appeal must be dealt with by an individual who wasn’t involved in the investigation or the disciplinary hearing.
Disciplinary hearings can be uncomfortable, messy affairs even when handled well. Following these steps and tips will enable you to conduct disciplinary hearings with minimal discomfort and hopefully reach a mutually beneficial outcome at