How to handle a disciplinary procedure
The best way of handling a disciplinary procedure is to follow the guidelines set in the ACAS Code of Practice, as well as your own company procedure. The disciplinary should be handled in a fair and reasonable way at each stage.
1. Establish the facts of the case
- Carry out necessary investigations without delay in order to establish the facts of the case. In some cases, this will require you to hold an investigatory meeting with the employee before proceeding. You should collate any evidence that will be used at the disciplinary hearing.
- In misconduct cases, where practicable, different managers should carry out the investigation and disciplinary hearing.
- Even though there is no statutory right for an employee to be accompanied at an investigatory meeting, it is advisable to allow the employee the right to be accompanied.
- In cases where the employee is suspended with pay, the suspension period should be as brief as possible, should be kept under review, and it should be made clear that the suspension itself is not considered a disciplinary action.
2. Inform the employee of the problem
- The employee should be notified in writing if there is a disciplinary case to answer. The written notification should contain sufficient information about the alleged misconduct or poor performance, and the possible consequences, to enable the employee to prepare an answer. It is usual to include copies of any written evidence with the notification.
- The notification should give details of the date, time and venue for the disciplinary meeting, and should advise the employee of their right to be accompanied at the meeting.
3. Hold a meeting with the employee to discuss the problem
- The meeting should be held without unreasonable delay, but it should also allow the employee reasonable time to prepare their case.
- Employers and employee should make every effort to attend the meeting. You should clearly explain the complaint against the employee and go through any evidence that has been gathered.
- The employee should be allowed to set out their case and answer any allegations that have been made. The employee should also be given a reasonable opportunity to ask questions, present evidence and call relevant witnesses.
- If relevant witnesses need to be called, they should be given advance notice of their requirement to attend the meeting.
4. Allow the employee to be accompanied at the meeting
- Employees have a statutory right to be accompanied by a companion where the disciplinary meeting could result in a) a formal warning; or b) the taking of some other disciplinary action; or c) the confirmation of a warning or some other disciplinary action (appeal hearings).
- The chosen companion may be a fellow worker, a trade union representative, or an official employed by a trade union.
- To exercise the statutory right to be accompanied, the employee must make a reasonable request. For e.g. it would not normally be reasonable for an employee to be accompanied by a companion whose presence would prejudice the hearing.
- The companion should be allowed to address the hearing to put and sum up the employee’s case, respond on behalf of the employee to any views expressed at the meeting, and confer with the employee during the hearing. However, the companion does not have the right to answer questions on the employee’s behalf, address the hearing if the employee does not wish it, or prevent the employer from explaining their case.
5. Decide on appropriate action
- After the meeting, decide whether or not disciplinary or any other action is justified and inform the employee accordingly in writing.
- Where misconduct is confirmed, or the employee is found to be performing unsatisfactorily, it is usual to give the employee a written warning.
- If the employee’s misconduct or unsatisfactory performance is sufficiently serious, it may be appropriate to issue a final written warning.
- A written warning should set out the nature of the misconduct or poor performance and the change in behaviour or improvement in performance required (with a timescale). The employee should also be told how long the warning will remain current.
- If the decision is to dismiss the employee, they should be informed as soon as possible of the reasons for the dismissal, the date on which the employment contract will end, the appropriate period of notice, and their right to appeal.
- If the act is classed as gross misconduct, it may be the dismissal is effective immediately, without notice (even for a first offence). However, a fair disciplinary process should always be followed.
- Where an employee is persistently unable or unwilling to attend a disciplinary meeting without good cause, you should make a decision based on the evidence available.
6. Provide employees with an opportunity to appeal
- Where an employee feels the disciplinary action taken against them is wrong or unjust, they should be allowed to appeal against the decision. Appeals should be heard without unreasonable delay. Employees should state their grounds for the appeal in writing.
- The appeal should be dealt with impartially and, if possible, by a manager who has not previously been involved in the case.
- Employees have a statutory right to be accompanied at appeal hearings.
- You should inform the employee of the results of the appeal hearing in writing, as soon as possible.