Disciplinary Hearings for Employers
Many employers struggle with handling disciplinary matters and often lose sight of the crucial issues. This results in enormous amounts of wasted management time and could result in costly and time consuming Employment Tribunal claims, including for unfair dismissal, discrimination and breach of contract.
When dealing with conduct issues, in order for an employer to defend a claim of unfair dismissal the employer will need to establish that there were reasonable grounds for the employer to believe that the employee had committed misconduct, that the employer completed a reasonable investigation, and that a decision to dismiss fell within the band of reasonable responses. We can assist you with all of these elements in order to put you in the best position to successfully defend any subsequent Employment Tribunal claims.
How to plan for a disciplinary hearing
We can advise managers on how to plan and prepare for a disciplinary hearing and we can guide them through the process. This will include ensuring that the relevant evidence and information is available and that the questions and areas of discussion are prepared in advance of the hearing. In addition, it is important for employers to conduct the hearing in a manner which is fair and objective. We can provide assistance to ensure that this is done.
There are many traps for the unwary employer in respect of carrying out disciplinary proceedings. Common failings of employers include: failure to give or record warnings properly, failure to give adequate advance notice of a disciplinary hearing or to inform an employee of the complaint being considered and the fact that dismissal might result, failure to inform the employee of the right to be accompanied, managers acting on evidence that the employee has not had a chance to challenge, decisions being made by persons other than the disciplining/appeals officer, and appeals being determined by people who have had prior involvement in the matter and therefore are not independent.
Disciplinary policies and procedures
It is important that employers have a disciplinary procedure in place and that they adopt and use this procedure. Failure to follow any such procedure without good reason could lead to criticism.
Employers should also comply with the ACAS Code of Practice, which details how to conduct a disciplinary process. Although the failure by an employer to follow the ACAS Code of Practice does not automatically make an employer liable should an employee submit a claim for unfair dismissal, the Employment Tribunal will take any such failure into account. Any failure by the employer to follow the ACAS Code of Practice may render the disciplinary process unfair, leading to a finding of unfair dismissal. This could happen even where the reason for the dismissal itself is found to be fair. In addition, if the Employment Tribunal finds that the dismissal was unfair, it has the power to increase any financial award by up to 25 per cent where it believes that the employer has unreasonably failed to follow the provisions contained in the ACAS Code of Practice.
Therefore, it is essential that anyone who is preparing for and conducting a disciplinary hearing is aware of the minimum requirements to be followed.
Disciplinary sanctions and dismissal for conduct issues
We have considerable experience of advising employers regarding the action to be taken against employees who have been subject to disciplinary proceedings. This includes the dismissals of senior managers and directors.
Employers are required to offer employees the right to appeal against any disciplinary sanction issued. We can assist with the process in relation to any subsequent appeal hearing.
We are also experienced in offering training on how to deal with disciplinary processes and hearings so that managers understand the importance of dealing with such matters correctly and have the knowledge to do so. We can tailor our training to suit the needs of your organisation.