The fourth in a series of blogs looking at elements of the disciplinary process. Here’s what to expect at a disciplinary hearing.
There’s nothing we hate more than being the bearers of bad news, especially when it comes to telling employers who’ve dismissed blatantly guilty employees that they’re exposed to potentially valid unfair dismissal claims. However, we often are and so it makes sense for us to set out the main reasons why in the hope that we don’t have to hold the receiver away from our ears for fear of deafness as much in future. We’ll do this in a series of blog posts over the course of the next couple of weeks, covering a different reason in each post. Of course, if you’re an employer and would like to discuss any of the issues touched on in these posts, please contact one of our HR consultants in confidence and without delay for some initial advice free of charge and without obligation.
Next up is the importance of ensuring that employees know what to expect at a disciplinary hearing. Again, it makes sense to first refer to the requirements of the Acas Code in this regard…
If it is decided that there is a disciplinary case to answer, the employee should be notified of this in writing. This notification should contain sufficient information about the alleged misconduct or poor performance and its possible consequences to enable the employee to prepare to answer the case at a disciplinary meeting. It would normally be appropriate to provide copies of any written evidence, which may include any witness statements, with the notification.
The notification should also give details of the time and venue for the disciplinary meeting and advise the employee of their right to be accompanied at the meeting.
Regarding the requirement that the employee should receive ‘…sufficient information about the alleged misconduct…’ , this involves the employer explaining the alleged misconduct clearly and being consistent in that regard throughout the process. Two questions we’re typically asked by clients are…
- How should I word the allegations?
- Can I tag on some further allegations that have come to light since the investigation?
When it comes to the wording of allegations, we’re at pains to stress to clients that they should avoid getting hung up on how this is presented. Rather, they should put themselves in the employee’s shoes in ensuring that, whilst comprehensive, it’s intelligible to them. As far as new allegations that come to light during further investigation are concerned, these can be added…but only if they’ve been properly investigated and brought to the employee’s attention to the extent that he or she has been afforded the opportunity to review the surrounding evidence and properly prepare their defence.
Regarding the provision of ‘…copies of any written evidence…with the notification’, this may seem obvious. However, we’re often asked how much of the documentation accumulated as part of a disciplinary investigation should be enclosed. Our answer is invariably “only that to which you intend to refer at the disciplinary hearing when addressing the allegations”.
Garry Humphreys, HR Consultant at EML comments:
“Buried in amongst the first of the above extracts from the Acas Code is one of the most common mistakes that employers make during disciplinary processes, that of failing to forewarn an employee of the possible outcome of a disciplinary hearing. The purpose of this is to ensure that the employee understands the seriousness of the matter and so has the opportunity to prepare accordingly. Crucially, an employee whose disciplinary hearing concludes in dismissal should never be caught unawares by such an outcome.”
Look out for our next post, which will deal with issues relating to the employee’s accompanying person and the corresponding statutory right.