Conducting a Disciplinary Hearing: Guide for Employers

July 12, 2017
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If you’re a manager, supervisor, or someone working in an HR team, you’ll need to know the ins and outs of a basic disciplinary and grievance procedure.

Any disciplinary process needs to be fair and transparent at all times. Communication is key and at no point should you spring news of dismissal upon an employee – unless, of course, the employee is being dismissed for gross misconduct.

This article will help employers, managers, supervisors, and members of HR understand how to go about conducting a disciplinary hearing, which is both fair and reasonable. 

How to Conduct a Disciplinary Hearing

Before a formal disciplinary process, employers should use informal methods like a simple chat or mediation. Mediation should be carried out by an impartial member of staff or third party who is adequately trained.

If informal measures fail to create a resolution. A formal process is likely to go ahead.

Before the Disciplinary

When you realise that an issue has become a problem there are two steps to take. First, gather evidence relating to the problem, such as performance records. Then, alert the employee in writing that their behaviour or performance is an issue. In this letter, include information on the alleged issue and outline the potential consequences. Also provide a time, date, and venue for the hearing.

Next, brush up on the ACAS guidelines for the disciplinary process and go over any internal documents that apply to your organisation.

Employees also have rights which you need to get familiar with, including the right to be accompanied to meetings and to have sufficient time to prepare. Before the meeting, give the employee copies of the documents and evidence that are relevant to the case.

Also, make sure that you don’t unreasonably delay meetings or decisions and that you raise and deal with issues promptly.

Managers conducting a disciplinary hearing

During the Disciplinary

In the disciplinary, stick to a pre-prepared outline of the meeting to keep the process focused. Tensions can run high so this is vital.

Allow the employee to put forward their case without interruption. Even if you believe that what they’re saying is inaccurate. You’ll have time to represent your case.

Create a plan with the employee to improve performance, outline your expectations and a timescale that you expect changes to occur within.

After the Disciplinary

Once the disciplinary has finished – or has finished being useful (end it early if the process stops being constructive) – you should discuss next steps, such as a further meeting or a time when the employee will hear back about a decision.

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Failure to Attend a Disciplinary Hearing

Make an effort to reschedule the meeting if the employee fails to arrive. If non-attendance persists, and you have given the employee ample time to prepare and sufficient information on the time, place, and date of the hearing, you should first investigate why they are unable to attend.

When you reschedule, emphasise the importance of attendance. Also make it evident that if the employee fails to turn up, the attendees may make a decision in their absence.

Disciplinary Action While on Sick Leave

If the absence is short-term, consider postponing the hearing until the employee returns.

If it seems likely that the absence is long-term, you should make an effort to involve the employee in the process. Involvement could mean allowing the employee to present their case in writing or via a representative.

Use occupational health services to discover if the employee:

  • Can understand the allegation.
  • Is well enough to respond.
  • Has the ability to provide their case in writing.
  • Can instruct a representative to assist them.
  • Can inform you of any reasonable adjustments that would help them attend.

Finding out this information demonstrates that you have made reasonable attempts to involve the employee in the process and to gauge their needs.

If attendance is not possible, and sickness absence is due to stress, planning a meeting in their absence could prevent further undue stress.

Where possible, secure the employee’s attendance or make alternative arrangements. If the employee is deliberately avoiding or obstructing the hearing process you should record clear examples of this. If you are forced to make a decision in the employee’s absence you should provide clear, unbiased evidence stating why the decision was made. You should also provide information on how to appeal the process.

Explaining disciplinary action to an employee

Disciplinary Appeals Procedure

Employees have the right to appeal disciplinary decisions if they feel that the action taken is wrong or unjust.

You must make it clear to an employee that they can appeal. When you do so, you should direct them towards information on how to appeal. You should include this information in a staff handbook on grievance and disciplinary procedures.

If an employee chooses to appeal, they will provide you with the grounds for their appeal in writing. You should then set a time, date, and venue for the appeal to be heard. You must do this in a timely manner and anyone who may be biased (such as someone previously involved with the case) should not be involved with the appeal process.

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