It’s important during your disciplinary process to understand where your business stands, but also to follow a fair procedure.
And that includes carrying out a full investigation into an incident. After that, you there’s a “disciplinary hearing”. Lots of businesses refer to this as a “meeting”.
So, what should your business do to follow the right laws and procedures for a disciplinary at work?
We explain everything you need to know in this guide. But don’t forget, you can get direct employment law advice if you need help with this straight away.
What is a disciplinary meeting?
It's a hearing where you explain allegations against an employee, who can defend their case and respond to any points you raise.
They should have a reasonable chance to ask any questions they have about the incident. As well as present evidence and raise issues about any witnesses.
Why might you need to take disciplinary action?
It’s due to a wide range of possibilities, the most common including:
- General misconduct—the most frequent reason. It may be an act of gross misconduct, for example.
- Repeated poor performance that affects business productivity.
- Absenteeism—short or long-term.
- Theft or fraud.
- Health & safety violations.
- Misuse of substances, in or out of work.
- Discriminatory behaviour.
Some businesses use formulas to keep track of certain issues. For example, The Bradford Factor—it measures absenteeism and the impact this has on your daily operations.
The Bradford University School of Management is responsible for it.
The concept aims to highlight that regular shot-term absences or sick days cause considerably more productivity issues than long-term ones.
Of course, it’s up to your business wants to use this process or not.
But it can lead to disciplinary action if there’s a consistent pattern of short-term unscheduled time away from work.
Ultimately, remember that you should look to provide warnings before starting and disciplinary procedures.
If it’s unavoidable, then you’ll need to plan ahead and get ready for your hearing.
The process for a meeting
When you’re in a situation where your staff member has a case to respond to, you can go ahead and schedule in a meeting.
In preparation for this, you’ll need to send the employee an invitation to the disciplinary meeting. You can do this by sending them a written letter of confirmation.
A disciplinary meeting notice period is a legal requirement, you must send this off to them—you can also inform the employee verbally. You have to do this without any unreasonable delay.
When inviting them to the hearing, provide reasonable notice.
The amount of forewarning you provide them will depend on things such as how long your investigation into the allegations will take place.
You can refer to the Acas code of practice on disciplinary and grievance procedures for further advice.
In the letter, you should cover the following points. So you can consider the below as a disciplinary meeting template letter:
- What the issue is, whether it’s an act of misconduct or an ongoing performance issue. Remember, at present you must treat it as an allegation—not fact.
- The evidence your investigation has discovered.
- Other details or information you’ll address.
- The date, time, and location for the meeting.
- An explanation of the employee’s rights, such as the role of a support person for them. This includes the right for a colleague or trade union official.
- What may happen after the meeting.
It’s a good idea to have a template saved so you can refer to it as and when you have any disciplinary hearings.
As the need to take this step occurs sporadically, with potentially years between one case and another, it’s useful to have this available to remind you of what to do.
For a few more disciplinary meeting tips, remember to prepare thoroughly before the hearing. Hold your investigation to gain as much evidence as possible.
And can you record a disciplinary meeting? Yes, with consent from either party—whether that’s your business, or the employee.
Note taking in a disciplinary meeting is also good business practice.
It helps you to keep track of everything that is said, which can help to reinforce any important points afterward.
You should look to ask specific disciplinary investigation meeting questions. These will need to relate to the incident the employee faces accusations of.
There’s not set structure to the questions to ask, just ensure they target what has taken place and look to ensure a clear picture of events emerges.
The questions shouldn’t try to trick the employee into unearthing some new facts—again, the process has to be fair. So make sure you ask questions that look to clarify the real course of events.
Above everything, you must treat your employee fairly and make sure they’re able to explain their version of events to you without and restrictions.
Your employee’s disciplinary rights
You should remember an employee can also bring evidence to the meeting.
An option they have available to them is to invite a colleague or trade union official to join them in the meeting.
However, there’s sometimes confusion over what this individual can and can’t do.
The role of support person in disciplinary meetings is to:
- Provide emotional support and provide advice to the employee—they can’t argue for them, though.
- Request a break if it’s necessary.
- Ensure the meeting is fair.
It’s a legal requirement for you to offer this to the employee. Your business also can’t decide who this individual is. You can’t reject a worker’s choice of companion if they’re drawn from one of the statutory categories and the request is reasonable.
After the hearing, you’ll need to make a decision. It’s important not to make it at the time. Instead, you should take your time and review the situation after the meeting to come to a conclusion.
If it results in a dismissal for misconduct (as an example). If that’s the outcome, then you’ll need to explain to the employee:
- Why you’re dismissing them.
- When their contract ends.
- Any notice period they have to work.
You should also explain to them their right to appeal your decision. This is in the event they think the outcome is too severe or the disciplinary process was unfair.
It also lets them present any new evidence, which may help their case.
To do this they’ll need to send you a written statement in email or letter form.
They should send this to you as soon as possible after the disciplinary meeting. Within five days is an appropriate amount of time—make sure the employee is aware of this suggestion.
What happens after a disciplinary meeting?
You’ll need to act on your findings from the hearing, but keep all details confidential.
Although you may want to update any other employees aware of the process in action, which can ensure there’s no gossiping or low morale around the workplace.
You should also look to keep a record of all notes, recordings, letters, and outcomes for future reference. Keep these confidential—and only for as long as you require them, as you have to respect data protection laws.
Disciplining staff after the meeting will then depend on the outcome of the hearing. This may result in the dismissal from your business of the employee.
Or you may decide on a warning or other action. Remember, your employee can appeal any of these decisions.