Disciplinary proceedings at any level must be taken very seriously. Disciplinary proceedings can often be the beginning of the end, if they are not handled properly by the employer.
Typically, the employer’s disciplinary policies and procedures will contain an indication as to how seriously they consider certain ‘acts’ or omissions, and the likely outcomes. You should request a copy immediately. If the employer does not have a policy, then you should be guided by the ACAS code. If the allegations being made against you could amount to misconduct or gross misconduct, this means you could lose your job if the employer finds the allegations are proven. In this situation, we recommend you do not delay in getting in touch.
Suspension is no longer considered to be a ‘neutral act’. This means that if you are suspended recklessly, negligently or maliciously you may be able to resign and pursue a claim for constructive unfair dismissal on the basis that the company have breached the implied term of mutual trust and confidence. In most cases, you will be expected to raise this with the employer at the time, and, before resigning, invite the employer to reconsider their decision to suspend you, setting out the reasons why the disciplinary allegations do not justify suspension.
Before a disciplinary hearing takes place, an employer should first carry out a disciplinary investigation. The investigation should be carried out by a member of staff who is not in any way involved in the disciplinary proceedings themselves. The investigation should include an interview with you and all witnesses. The disciplinary investigation should be comprehensive. You should be sent the disciplinary investigation report, along with all evidence gathered during the investigation before the disciplinary meeting. If you receive the disciplinary investigation report and is concerned it is biased, incomplete or misleading, this may be an indication that the outcome of the disciplinary hearing is predetermined and will go against you. You should raise your concerns about this immediately and, without delay, get in touch with us for advice and guidance.
RIGHT TO BE ACCOMPANIED TO A DISCIPLINARY HEARING
You have a legal right to be accompanied to a disciplinary hearing by either a work colleague or trade union representative. If there are good reasons for it (such as being unwell) you can ask to be accompanied by a friend or family member but this will be at the discretion of the company.
A disciplinary hearing should ideally be conducted by someone independent and senior to the person who carried out the disciplinary investigation. The disciplinary hearing should allow you an opportunity to comment on the disciplinary investigation and present additional evidence or mitigating circumstances. The employer should confirm their decision in writing after the disciplinary hearing.
The disciplinary outcomes or sanctions can include :
If there is a disciplinary sanction, the employer should offer you a right of appeal. If you are not happy with the outcome or feel that it is unfair, it is imperative you exercise your right of appeal. This is very important even for written warnings, and essential where there is a final written warning or decision to dismiss. The contents of the appeal is very important. We strongly recommend you ask us to either prepare or review the appeal before submitting it to the employer.
IMPACT OF DISCIPLINARY PROCEEDINGS AND DISMISSAL
Disciplinary proceedings can cause damage to the relationship with the employer and possibly colleagues who may have made allegations or given evidence against you. This can be difficult when you spend so much time at work. If you are suffering from increased stress symptoms as a result of the workplace, do not let it go untreated for too long. Reach out to your doctor if necessary. As part of your terms and conditions of employment, you are entitled to sick pay, so use it to help get some distance from the situation.
If you have been threatened with disciplinary proceedings, have been subject to a disciplinary investigation, are suspended pending a disciplinary investigation or hearing, please do not try and manage this process on your own. We are experts in advising employees and provide practical solutions and a way forward. If you feel the outcome of the disciplinary hearing is predetermined, we recommend you also read our Exit Planning page.
If you have been dismissed following disciplinary proceedings, we recommend you also read our Employment Tribunal page. We believe that anyone who has been dismissed should take the time to get expert advice as to whether they may have been unfairly dismissed.