Berkeley Solicitors provides an overview of an employers’ disciplinary obligations.
Why is it important to have rules and a disciplinary procedure?
Setting out rules means that your employees know what conduct is and isn’t acceptable in the workplace. Your disciplinary procedure is then the means by which you maintain standards, and lets your employees know what they can expect should they break the rules.
What can go wrong if I don’t follow a fair disciplinary procedure?
If you dismiss someone without having a good reason for dismissal and following a fair disciplinary procedure, he or she could bring an unfair dismissal claim.
Do I have to investigate a possible disciplinary offence before disciplining the employee?
Yes, you should always carry out an investigation without unreasonable delay to establish the facts of the case. You should remain open-minded throughout the investigation and avoid jumping to conclusions.
Am I obliged to hold a disciplinary meeting with the employee?
Yes, you should hold a disciplinary meeting with the employee before deciding whether or not to take disciplinary action. This gives the employee the opportunity to put forward his or her side of the story, enabling you to make an informed decision.
Can the employee bring anyone to the disciplinary meeting?
Employees are legally entitled to be accompanied at a formal disciplinary meeting by a workplace colleague or a trade union representative. There is no right for the employee to bring a legal representative or relative, unless the employment contract provides for this.
Who chooses the employee’s companion?
The employee chooses the companion. However, if the request is unreasonable, for example the proposed companion is also involved in the disciplinary issue in some way, you can reject the employee’s request.
What disciplinary action can I take??
Where disciplinary action is necessary, you need to decide on an appropriate penalty. The issue may warrant a verbal or first or final written warning. If the employee has already received a final written warning, or the offence is sufficiently serious, dismissal may be the most appropriate sanction, although you should never take a decision to dismiss lightly.
Is there a time limit for informing the employee of my decision?
You should take the time to consider your decision carefully, adjourning the disciplinary meeting to do so. You need to inform the employee of your decision in writing. There’s no specific time period for doing this, but you need to do it as soon as possible after the meeting.
Does the employee have a right to appeal my decision?
Yes. Employees can appeal any disciplinary decision imposed on them, not just those where the penalty is dismissal. The employee might think your decision is unfair or that the penalty imposed is too severe.
Can the same person conduct the disciplinary meeting and appeal hearing?
The person who hears the appeal should, if possible, be somebody more senior who has not been involved in the case. Whoever hears the appeal needs to consider it as impartially as possible.
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