How to be Successful at a Disciplinary Hearing?

It is a stressful experience to be suspended and invited to a disciplinary hearing.  It is important to try and keep a clear head and try to give yourself the best chance of avoiding disciplinary action or in the worst case, dismissal.  Hopefully, with these tips, you can feel more confident and better prepared. 

Top 10 Tips if you have a Disciplinary at Work

Here are our top 10 tips if you have a disciplinary at work:  

  1. Use the time to think  
  2. Use witnesses for the disciplinary hearing 
  3. Gather documents 
  4. Read the ACAS Code of Practice 
  5. Comply with the ACAS Code of Practice 
  6. Get trade Union Representation 
  7. Get a copy of the notes/minutes of the disciplinary hearing 
  8. Fair decision making 
  9. Independent hearing 
  10. Be aware of time limits 

Use the time to think 

  • Use any period of suspension to think carefully about the possible allegations made by your employer and take the time to write down all you can remember about the possible incidents that have led to this. Employees are not always given full details of the reasons for the suspension.  
  • Having your own written record will help you collate your thoughts. The more time elapses, the more difficult it becomes to remember exactly what happened.

Use Witnesses

  • Think hard about whether you have any witnesses to the alleged events.  If so, you should contact those witnesses and ask that they provide you with statements in support of your case, unless you are suspended and ordered not to contact anyone.  
  • If you are suspended and not allowed to contact witnesses, you should give witness details to the Employer and make sure they are spoken to as part of the investigation. 

 Make documents 

  • Consider what documents you need to support your arguments.  Make a list of any documents, emails, letters, or other information you feel would be helpful to your case.  
  • Make sure the employer provides copies to you.  It is important to remember that your employer can only make a decision based on the information it has at the time – if the information is not presented it is very difficult to rely upon it in a later Tribunal claim. 

Read the ACAS Code of Practice 

    • Make sure you read the ACAS Code of Practice regarding grievances and disciplinaries, along with your employer’s disciplinary procedure.  Your employer may be breaching both and it is important that you point out those failures as evidence of unfair treatment.  
    • You could be entitled to up to 25% more compensation in the future if your employer does not comply with the ACAS Code. 

     Comply with the ACAS Code of Practice 

    • Make sure that you comply with the ACAS Code of Practice regarding grievances and disciplinaries. If you have grounds to pursue a claim and you fail to follow the Code, it could result in a reduction to any compensation that might be awarded of up to 25%. For example, do not unreasonably refuse to attend disciplinary meetings. 

     Get trade Union Representation 

    • Make sure you secure a trade union representative or colleague to attend any disciplinary meeting with you.  If you are not a trade union member, taking a colleague with you helps to ensure you have a witness and that colleague can take full notes of the discussions which you might need at a later stage.  
    • A refusal to allow you to be accompanied might entitle you to compensation. 

     Get a copy of the notes/minutes 

    • If notes or minutes of the disciplinary meetings are taken by your employer, make sure you are provided with a copy of them and that you have an opportunity to confirm the accuracy of those notes.  If those notes are incorrect, make sure you write down the misrepresentations or omissions and present them in writing to the employer before it makes a disciplinary decision. 

     Fair decision making 

    • Try to make sure that the person investigating the disciplinary issue is different from the person making the final decision at the disciplinary hearing. 

    Independent hearing 

    • The person hearing the disciplinary should be independent of the incident in question e.g. if possible disciplinary action arises from an altercation between an employee and a Manager, it would not be fair for that Manager to decide regarding disciplinary action. 

       Be aware of times limits 

      • Do not be misled into thinking that an appeal process against disciplinary action or dismissal extends the time limits for pursuing a Tribunal claim.  If you are dismissed from employment, the 3 months less 1-day time limit within which to lodge a Tribunal claim runs from the date your employment ends – not the date of the appeal.  If your appeal has not been dealt with before this time limit expires you will need to lodge a Tribunal claim regardless.  

      Being well prepared for a disciplinary hearing ensures you are well prepared for possible future proceedings.  And always remember, if the information in your defence is not given to the employer before it decides on disciplinary action, it is difficult to rely on it later in a Tribunal.  

      What are the steps in the disciplinary process?

      1. Understand your options 
      2. Follow the fair and correct procedure 
      3. Begin an investigation 
      4. Hold a disciplinary hearing 
      5. Decide the outcome from the disciplinary hearing 
      6. After the disciplinary hearing 

      Understand your options 

      Beforehand, the employer should research if the issue can be dealt with in an informal manner so that it does not have to go to a hearing. This can save both the employer and employee time and money.

      Follow the fair and correct procedure 

      If the employer did consider alternatives to the hearing but thought that a hearing was needed, then they must supply the employee with a letter explaining the hearing with information about the issues and consequences of the result. The employee should have enough time to create a defence with a 1-week notice from the employer being enough time. 

      Begin an investigation 

      If there is going to be a disciplinary hearing, the employer should investigate to find out as much information as possible to present to the employee. Follow the ACAS guide to carrying out a disciplinary investigation. 

      Hold a disciplinary hearing 

      This hearing must be in a private place and at least a week after the notice was handed to the employee. This is where both parties will submit evidence regarding the issue. The employee has a right to be accompanied and call any witnesses that they may want to use to help their case. 

      Decide the outcome from the disciplinary hearing 

      When the employer has decided what action is to be taken, they should first tell the employee and then the stakeholders in writing. If no action is needed, then the employer should close the disciplinary investigation and tell the employee that there is nothing to worry about. However, if disciplinary action is needed, then the employer must take necessary action. Read the ACAS website to learn more about disciplining employees after a hearing. 

      After the disciplinary hearing 

      When the disciplinary hearing process has finished and a decision has been made, document the outcome so that in the future, it can be referred to if needed.

      Frequently Asked Questions about Disciplinary Hearings How long does a disciplinary stay on your record?

      It tends to depend on the employer. It can stay on from 6-12 months and taken off if the employee’s behaviour is improved but it can stay on indefinitely.

      What is the notice period for a disciplinary hearing?

      1. Oral/in-formal warning 
      2. Written/formal warning 
      3. Temporary financial action 
      4. Removal of benefits 
      5. Temporary suspension 
      6. Job demotion 
      7. Contract termination 

      What are the types of disciplinary actions at work?

      There is no set time for a notice period given from an employer to an employee but 1 week or 5 working days is the recommended time frame as it allows both parties to prepare evidence. If an employer gives a shorter notice and the result of the hearing is termination, the employee may have a stronger case of unfair dismissal if it goes to an employment tribunal. 

      What causes a disciplinary hearing at work?

      There are multiple causes for an employee to be called for a disciplinary hearing. Below are just a few common causes: 

      1. Intellectual property or physical property theft 
      2. Internal conflict between employees 
      3. Behaviour 
      4. Under the influence 
      5. Not following company policy 
      6. Lateness  

      We have years of experience dealing with employment disciplinary representation. If you would like advice or for us to represent you, please contact us on 033 3344 600 or email info@morrishsolicitors.com with your request.