Being accused of misconduct and having to go through the disciplinary process can be a stressful situation. If you are faced with this situation then it is important to know both what you can do to prepare and what your employer should do to ensure the process is fair.
You should be advised at an early stage when an allegation has been made against you. At this stage you may be suspended (usually on full pay – check your contract of employment for this) whilst an investigation takes place.
The allegation needs to be investigated by your employer. This will likely involve a meeting with you, any witnesses and the collating of any evidence. You do not have the right to be accompanied at this meeting although your employer may allow you to be accompanied. Following the investigation a decision will be made as to whether to continue with the matter to a disciplinary hearing or that the matter is not to be pursued further.
If it is decided that there should be a disciplinary hearing, you should be notified in writing that a disciplinary hearing will take place, with details of the time, date, place, the specific allegations against you and the evidence your employer will be relying on at the hearing. You have the right to be accompanied at the hearing by a work colleague or Trade Union representative. Sufficient time should be given to you to prepare your response to the allegations after receiving the evidence against you. At the hearing you should be given the opportunity to put your version of events across. At the conclusion of the hearing your employer will decide on an appropriate sanction, if any, and inform you of their decision.
You should prepare your response to the allegations you are facing. Often it can help to write down in advance of the hearing the points that you wish to raise or any questions you have so that you do not forget key issues you want to refer to. If there are witnesses and you dispute their version of events, it may be possible to ask that they attend so you can query their statement.
If you are unhappy with the outcome of the disciplinary hearing you should be given the right of appeal. Any appeal hearing should be heard by someone who hasn’t been involved in the process so far wherever possible. Following the appeal hearing your employer will decide whether to overturn, uphold or even increase the sanction given at the disciplinary hearing.
Your appeal should set out the basis upon which you disagree with the outcome of the disciplinary hearing. This may be the conclusions that were reached based on the evidence or the level of the sanction that was given to you.
There are a number of reasons why as an employee you might be unhappy at work. It could be that a colleague is making your life difficult, either by bullying or harassing you. It might be that you feel discriminated against, or you haven’t been paid correctly, health and safety issues at work, or changes within the organisation. Whatever your reason for being unhappy, when an employee wishes to raise a concern of a formal complaint about something at work that can’t be dealt with informally, they should do so using a grievance procedure.
What is the procedure that should be followed?
An employer should have their own grievance procedure, and this can usually be found in the office manual or employee handbook, or sometimes even in an employee’s contract of employment. If the grievance procedure cannot be found or does not exist, the employee should ask their employer to see a copy. If the employee does not feel comfortable to do this, or if the employer doesn’t have a grievance procedure, the employee should look at the ACAS Code of Practice on grievance procedure.
The procedure is really quite straightforward, and should always consist of the following steps:
(1) The employee writes a grievance letter;
(2) The employer responds in writing, inviting the employee to a grievance meeting;
(3) A grievance meeting is held between the employer and employee to discuss the employee’s grievance;
(4) The employer writes to the employee with the outcome. The employee should be offered the right of appeal;
(5) The employee can appeal in writing if they are not happy with the outcome;
(6) An appeal meeting is held between the employer and employee to discuss;
(7) The employer writes to the employee with the final decision.