For the workplace to function effectively, employers use standards for conduct, timekeeping and performance management and identify issues that may need resolving in the workplace. Disciplinary hearings are a major part of this.
These frameworks are there for the benefit of both the employer and the employee.
If your employer starts a disciplinary process against you (whether for conduct or performance) it could be because they want to resolve an issue quickly or it could be the first step in getting you out.
Assuming you have more than two years’ service, the employer needs to have a valid reason to give a sanction and it needs to follow a procedure to do it safely. This procedure guarantees you the right to defend yourself and not be ambushed. You should not be dismissed for a first misconduct offence or for poor attendance or poor work performance. Instead, you should be given at least one chance to improve.
The employer must gather the evidence for the case and provide the employees with all the facts of the case. You must then be given the opportunity to put a response forward. You should be allowed the right to be accompanied to disciplinary meetings and also be able to appeal against any decision made.
An employee is allowed to call their own witnesses to give evidence, in writing or in person. The witnesses are not obliged to attend, even if they are colleagues, but if they do give a statement or attend the employer must read it or listen to it.
An employer might prevent an employee from recording the meeting but we advise employees to record it anyway. Often, we find that an employer’s notes don’t record the whole story and will omit things that could help the employee at an appeal or at a tribunal hearing. The value of a companion is a neutral note. A mobile phone recording is even better.
The rules on disciplinary hearings are contained in the Acas Code of Practice.
If the employer fails to follow the Acas Code of Practice or its own internal procedure it faces a finding of unfair dismissal at an employment tribunal.
The employee should not give “no comment” answers. This is not a police interview. A disciplinary decision that is taken on the best evidence available cannot be challenged by the employee if they later bring up some fresh evidence. Therefore, mention everything in your defence at the time of the hearing. We have had employees who didn’t complain at the time that, for example, the cctv evidence was played too fast or that one of the witnesses had a grudge.