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A Four Step Plan To Taking Formal Disciplinary Action

Step One:  Formal Disciplinary Action – Where to Start?

When considering formal disciplinary action, it is important to conduct an investigation. This should include an investigatory meeting with the employee to ensure they are clearly aware of the matter and that it may lead to disciplinary action.

Although employees are not legally entitled to be accompanied at investigatory meetings, it is worth considering giving an employee the opportunity to have a companion at the meeting. Dependent on your disciplinary procedures, you may already specify restrictions on who may accompany the employee at an investigation.

Step Two:  Should You Suspend?

In cases that are potentially serious, it may be appropriate to formally suspend an employee from work. This is normally on full pay until the issue is resolved. Once the investigation stage is complete, you should invite the employee in writing to attend a formal disciplinary hearing.

Step Three:  Arranging a Disciplinary Meeting

When inviting the employee to a formal disciplinary hearing, you should ensure the employee is given enough notice to arrange a companion and adequately prepare for the hearing. The employee should also be given copies of any investigation notes before the hearing. The employee is legally entitled to bring a work colleague or Trade Union Representative (even if you don’t recognise a union). You are not obliged to allow them to bring a family member or partner – we advise against this approach.

Step Four:  Holding a Disciplinary Meeting

We recommend that the disciplinary hearing is chaired by someone other than the person who conducted the investigation. We appreciate this may not always be practical or possible in small organisations, but consideration should always be given to this.

Key stages to follow:

1)  During the hearing, the issues at hand should be detailed, the evidence presented and the employee asked for their responses and explanations. It may be that the employee also wishes to raise mitigating circumstances.

2)  It is important to remain professional at all times during the hearing and avoid being confrontational. The employee should be given the opportunity to ask questions and to present any evidence they have.

3)  Notes should be taken during the hearing, and it is good practice to provide a copy to the employee. However, if you don’t wish to do this you should ensure it is held on file as the employee has the right to request information you store about them. It would be helpful to have another manager at the hearing to take notes for you.

4)  Before any disciplinary decision is made, the hearing should be adjourned to allow the chairperson to consider all the facts. The chairperson may then decide what, or if any action is required. If you wish to take action this should either be a written warning, final written warning or dismissal. If dismissal is an escalation of the disciplinary procedure, notice is payable and in the cases of gross misconduct notice is not payable.

5)  The employee should be notified of the outcome in writing, and if any action has been taken it should clearly state their grounds for appeal. It is also to detail why you have taken action and what improvement you expect if appropriate. The outcome should be confirmed in writing as soon as possible, and your procedures may specify how soon after the meeting you do this.

Employers who fail to follow the correct process risk exposing themselves to an uplift on any award should the disciplinary action result in an employment tribunal claim so it's important to ensure you do everything properly.

If you require further HR Advice, explanation or support in this or any other HR related area, please call us today on 0800 612 4772 or get a Free Quote.

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