Preparing for a Disciplinary Hearing

“Made me feel at ease”

If your employer is concerned about your performance at work, your attendance, or your conduct, they may start disciplinary proceedings against you. In the first instance, your employer is likely to try and resolve any issues with you informally or discuss any underlying reasons. However, they can also resort immediately to formal disciplinary or dismissal procedures.

At Wheelers, we understand how distressing being the subject of disciplinary proceedings can be, particularly if your employer did not raise the issue prior to starting the procedure. You might be feeling anxious about losing your job, or insecure about your capability.

Whatever the particulars of your case, our friendly and experienced employment solicitors will tailor our advice according to your personal circumstances, with the goal of preserving your employee rights and achieving a positive outcome.

For further advice and information, please contact Reena Sharma at our Farnborough office or Mel McCrum and Stacey Edgleyat our Ash Vale office. They are all members of the Employment Lawyers Association.

What is a disciplinary hearing?

A disciplinary hearing or disciplinary meeting will be part of your employer’s procedure for addressing certain behaviour or shortcomings at work, including:

  • Your work performance – for example, if your employer is concerned you aren’t doing your job to the standards expected of you
  • Your conduct – a specific act or omission, for example, your behaviour towards colleagues
  • Your attendance
  • Any other reason affecting your work

How should misconduct or poor performance be handled?

The Acas Code of Practice (Acas Code) was introduced in 2009 to replace the statutory disciplinary procedure. Employers are required to follow the Code in disciplinary situations. If they do not do so then any action or dismissal is likely to be “unfair” and any resulting compensation awarded in a successful claim may be increased by up to a further 25%. It is also important for employees to heed the Code’s Guidance, and we can provide in-depth advice on the best ways to do this.

In line with the Code, your employer should:

  • conduct an investigation
  • inform you of the issues in writing
  • hold a disciplinary meeting or hearing
  • notify you of the outcome in writing
  • give you the right of appeal
  • allow you to be accompanied at the meetings or hearings

We can support you during any disciplinary procedure including providing HR support. We know how distressing this process can be for you.

Do you know whether your employer is following a disciplinary procedure?

Your employer should have a written disciplinary procedure which is easily accessible to all staff. This procedure may even be written into your employment contract (and if your employer fails to follow it, they may be liable for breach of contract).

Although it’s not the law for the procedure to follow the Acas Code and Guidance, if your employer fails to comply, it will be counted against them during any Employment Tribunal proceedings.

Do you understand why your employer has started disciplinary proceedings?

The following are common reasons your employer may start disciplinary proceedings. Make sure you understand the full facts before attending a disciplinary hearing:

  • Performance –
    • Why is your employer claiming your performance is inadequate?
    • Has your employer presented you with evidence?
    • Did you receive any training when you started the job and have you received and extra training, support, or guidance to help you improve?
  • Conduct –
    • What act or omission is your employer claiming you have done?
    • Has your employer showed you all the evidence, including witness statements?
  • Long-term sickness –
    • Has your employer presented any evidence which sets out why you cannot continue your job?
    • Has your employer made any reasonable adjustments to your job which would enable you to return sooner?
    • How serious is your condition and how long has it lasted? We can provide advice on whether you are protected under the Equality Act 2010.

How to prepare your case prior to a disciplinary hearing

Your employer should give you enough time to examine the evidence against you and prepare your own case, including writing a written statement of what you want to say and collecting evidence, for example, GP’s letters, witness statements describing how you correctly dealt with the issue at hand, or emails asking for training or extra support.

You can also ask people to act as witnesses and prepare written statements backing up their evidence. Your employer is not allowed to deny you witnesses; however, you cannot force someone to be a witness if they don’t want to be.

If you feel your employer has not given you enough time to prepare your case, you can ask for more and suggest a reasonable timeframe.

Our employment solicitors can help you prepare for your disciplinary hearing, including writing any statements and advising on your evidence and the merits of your case.

Who can you take to a disciplinary hearing?

You have a statutory right to take either a colleague, a trade union representative, or an official employed by a trade union to a disciplinary hearing. You could also request to bring someone else, such as a friend or relative, however, your employer does not have to agree.

What happens at a disciplinary hearing?

Your disciplinary hearing will likely be conducted as follows:

  • Your employer will explain why the meeting is being held
  • They will present their case, explaining any evidence they have to back up their claims
  • You will then have the opportunity to respond to the claims, provide an explanation for the alleged misconduct, call your witnesses, present your evidence, and ask any questions.
  • Your employer will also ask whether any special considerations should be taken into account when deciding your case
  • You will be given an opportunity to talk privately with anyone you’ve brought to the hearing and they will be able to ask questions for you and present your position on your behalf.

What happens after a disciplinary hearing?

After the disciplinary hearing, your employer will usually take some time to consider your case and come to a decision. There are a variety of possible outcomes, including:

  • No further action
  • A verbal, written, or final warning
  • Suspension with or without pay
  • Demotion
  • Dismissal with notice
  • Dismissal without notice

You will be informed of the decision in writing and your employer should clearly state your right to make an appeal and the deadline.

How do you appeal a disciplinary hearing decision?

If you feel your employer’s decision is wrong or unjust, your employer should give you the opportunity to appeal.

We can help you prepare your grounds for appeal clearly in writing and it should be considered by a manager who was not involved in the original proceedings. If there is an appeal hearing, it will be similar to the first hearing and you have a statutory right to be accompanied.

You employer will then provide a written response setting out their final decision. If you also disagree with this decision, we can provide you with advice on taking the matter to an Employment Tribunal. You have 3 months from the date of the final decision to make your claim.

We can advise you regarding the merits of your claim, help you negotiate with your employer either informally, using Alternative Dispute Resolution methods such as mediation, or via the Acas Early Conciliation service. If settlement negotiations are unsuccessful, we can prepare your claim on your behalf and provide robust representation at any Employment Tribunal hearings.

Why choose Wheelers’ employment lawyers?

At Wheelers, we specialise in advising and representing employees across all areas of employment law.

Whatever the reason for your employer starting disciplinary proceedings, whether it be related to your conduct, performance, or attendance, we provide sympathetic but practical advice on how best to handle the process.

We pride ourselves on our comprehensive service which encompasses the entire disciplinary procedure, including initial support, helping you prepare your case, appealing any unwelcome decisions, and helping you take your dispute further (including starting Employment Tribunal proceedings if necessary).

Several members of our team, including Mel McCrum, Reena Sharma, and Stacey Edgley are members of the Employment Lawyers Association (ELA), an organisation devoted to promoting employment law best practice.

Wheelers is independently regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA).

Get in touch with our employment solicitors today

If you would like further information, please contact Reena Sharma on 01252 367517 at our Farnborough office or Mel McCrum and  Stacey Edgley on 01252 316316 at our Ash Vale office.