If your employer is taking disciplinary proceedings against you, it's important to know all of your rights before attending a hearing. This short guide to disciplinary hearings is intended to help you prepare for a hearing.
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What are my rights at a disciplinary hearing?
One of the most important points to remember about a disciplinary hearing is that while your employer has a duty to gather evidence and witness statements in advance, they're not allowed to have reached a decision about your guilt, far less any penalty, before the meeting.
This means that if you've been called to attend a disciplinary hearing, you should understand that your employer doesn't hold all of the power; you have a right to be heard and to put forward your case, supported by a union representative or a colleague to help support and counsel you during the hearing.
We can provide you with a trained representative through our Executive Reps service if you don't have a union representative or suitable colleague. In order to help you prepare for what can be a difficult and stressful situation, we've also detailed some of the key points to be aware of when approaching a disciplinary hearing.
What should happen before a disciplinary hearing?
You've a right to know as soon as you're under investigation for a disciplinary matter. While you may have received a verbal indication that you're going to be subjected to a hearing, your employer must also inform you of the reasons for the hearing and give you sufficient notice of the date and time of the hearing to let you gather any evidence you need. You may also wish to arrange for a Union Rep or a colleague to act as your companion during the hearing. If you've any disability that might affect you in a disciplinary hearing, or require an interpreter, that should also be considered by your employer.
What should happen at a disciplinary hearing?
While a disciplinary hearing isn't a court of law, it should still start with a presumption of innocence, and without a pre-judged outcome. It's therefore up to your employer to outline the case against you, and back these allegations up with any evidence or witness statements. You should then be given the opportunity to tell your side of the story, asking questions, presenting evidence and calling witnesses as necessary.
Where you accept that you were at fault, or perhaps partly at fault, you should be allowed to give a statement in mitigation, citing circumstances such as a lack of clear understanding about company procedures, or the fact that you had made a mistake as the result of pressure to meet impossible deadlines, for example.
During the hearing, you should be allowed the chance to confer in private with your union representative or companion, as well as getting them to ask questions and sum up on your behalf. However, please note that unless your employer has agreed to this in advance, your union representative or companion cannot answer questions on your behalf.
What should happen after a disciplinary hearing?
As nothing about a disciplinary hearing should be pre-judged, there is no need for a decision to be taken during the hearing. Obviously, if your explanation has been accepted and it seems that the hearing is the result of an honest misunderstanding, your employer is free to state that this is the case at the end of the hearing.
Where it's likely that some sort of penalty will arise out of the meeting, perhaps even including dismissal from the company, it's best practice for your employer to give due consideration to their decision before informing you either verbally or in writing in the days that follow. Where you disagree with their decision – whether it's for a verbal warning, written warning, final warning, suspension without pay, dismissal with notice or dismissal without notice – you've the right to appeal against it to your employer. When this happens, someone who was not involved in the original disciplinary proceedings should ideally handle the appeal.
If you're dismissed as a result of the disciplinary action taken, you may be able to make a claim in the Employment Tribunal for unfair dismissal, if the decision to dismiss you was unfair and/or if your employer didn't follow a fair process or procedure in dismissing you. In order to bring this claim, you must have two years' service (subject to some exceptions such as if you've been discriminated against or been dismissed or disciplined because you're a whistleblower) and your claim must be brought within three months less one day from the effective date of termination of your employment.
Can Slater and Gordon help with a disciplinary hearing?
We're a leading ranked employment law firm in Chambers and Partners and the Legal 500, and so offer expertise in helping our clients through all sorts of employment law disputes. As such, whenever you've an employment issue with your employer and when you're being subjected to disciplinary proceedings, we've the experience you need, combined with a common-sense approach to managing costs.
In some cases, it's possible to prevent or postpone disciplinary action being taken against you and we settle many cases for employees in the event of disciplinary disputes.
Call us on 0330 041 5869 or contact us and we'll call you.
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