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Disciplinaries at work

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If you run a business and would like to know more about how to conduct a disciplinary procedure properly, please click the link below:

Disciplinary procedures summary

If you’re subjected to a disciplinary it’s your employer’s way of telling you that something is wrong at work. There are a number of circumstances in which you may be disciplined, for example if you’ve acted badly at work (i.e. fighting) or if your employer thinks that your performance at work hasn’t been good enough. A disciplinary procedure is the fair way to sort out such problems. It gives your employer a chance to explain what they think is wrong and it gives you an opportunity to respond. In serious circumstances disciplinaries can lead to dismissal – and you should be informed by your employer of that fact.

[divider top=”1″] How will my employer handle the disciplinary?

Your employer can handle the disciplinary in one of two ways:

  1. Informally: your employer may try to discuss any problem with you without resorting to a formal disciplinary process. Your line manager or Human Resources will probably sit down with you and discuss any concerns that they have, giving you guidelines on how to remedy the situation or improve. You’ll then be able to address their concerns, potentially providing evidence to your employer (if you have possession of such).
  2. Formally: your employer should conduct your disciplinary in line with the ACAS Code of Practice. How your employer should handle the process is outlined below.

Your employer may go straight to the disciplinary process without investigating first. However, a failure to reasonably conduct an investigation process may render any sanctions against you unfair.

[divider top=”1″] How should my employer handle the disciplinary?

Your employer should act in line with the ACAS Code of Practice (“the Code”). The Code sets out the principles that both yourself and your employer should follow to ensure a reasonable and fair outcome from the disciplinary procedure.

A disciplinary procedure in line with the ACAS Code of Conduct should contain the following steps:

  1. Your employer sends you a letter setting out the allegations being made against you
  2. You meet with your employer to discuss the allegations
  3. You receive the outcome of the disciplinary procedure from your employer
  4. You appeal (if necessary) the outcome
Your employer should ideally have a written disciplinary procedure. This should have been given to you during your employment or should have been made easily available by your employer (for example, at Human Resources or on your company intranet). You can probably find in this procedure details of your employer’s disciplinary procedure and what action your employer might take in the circumstances.
If you think your employer has done anything unreasonable during the disciplinary procedure then you should make a note of this and ensure that your employer is informed of the procedural defects. On the basis of this your employer may choose to start the disciplinary procedure again, acknowledge the defects or simply continue with the disciplinary. If your employer fails to take sufficient regard of your complaints then this may form grounds for an appeal.
[divider top=”1″] How should I handle the disciplinary?

You should not be overly alarmed that you’ve been summoned to a disciplinary, especially if the disciplinary is informal in nature. There may even have been a mistake in summoning you.

Gather evidence and remain calm

If you have been summoned to a disciplinary meeting (whether formal or informal) then you should gather all the evidence that you think is reasonable and relevant in the circumstances. You may be able to change your employer’s mind if you do so. It’s important that you remain calm during the process as well. If you handle the situation rationally and reasonably then you will be able to present a better case to your employer. Getting angry and flustered will only harm your case and may result in further action against you.

Ask a work colleague or a Trade Union official to attend

You are entitled to bring a work colleague or a Trade Union official to your disciplinary hearing as your representative. They’re not allowed to speak at the disciplinary hearing but may take notes and they will be an important witness of what went on at the hearing. You’re only allowed to bring a solicitor to the disciplinary hearing in limited circumstances – normally where dismissal would result in an inability to practice in your field in the future. You may be able to bring a friend or family member but you should ask permission from your employer first. Your employer is entitled to say no in these circumstances.

Attend the disciplinary

If you unreasonably fail to attend the disciplinary hearing then your employer may conduct the disciplinary hearing without you. It’s therefore vital that you attend on the date in question or provide a good reason justifying why you can’t attend your disciplinary hearing.

Appeal your disciplinary

If you receive a warning or are dismissed as a result of the disciplinary (and you believe the sanction against you to be unfair) then you should appeal the outcome within the time frame specified. A precedent of an appeal against a disciplinary outcome is included below.

[divider top=”1″] Can I be suspended from work during the disciplinary process?

Your employer has the power to suspend you from work during the disciplinary process. Prior to your being disciplined you should be informed of why you are being suspended and told how long your employer thinks you may be suspended for. There are two ways you can be suspended from work:

  1. Suspension without pay: if your contract of employment allows for you to be suspended without pay then your employer can (if they are acting reasonably) do so. If your contract of employment does not allow for this then your employer must, again, act reasonably in suspending you but must pay you. Your employer will normally pay you at your full rate to avoid the conclusion that you’re being punished as a result of the disciplinary.
  2. Suspension with pay: even if your contract of employment specifies that you may be suspended without pay your employer may still choose to pay you if you’re suspended because of a disciplinary. You should be paid at your full rate of pay (if you’re being paid). If you are not paid the full amount then you can make an “unlawful deduction from wages” claim to the Employment Tribunal.
[divider top=”1″] What are the potential outcomes of the disciplinary process?

There are three potential outcomes of the disciplinary hearing:

  1. Your employer may deem that more evidence is necessary before an outcome is reached and the disciplinary hearing is adjourned; or
  2. The disciplinary procedure against you is “dropped”; or
  3. The allegations against you are upheld and you are given a warning (either verbal or written) or dismissed
[divider top=”1″] Can I appeal the outcome of the disciplinary process?

You can appeal the outcome of the disciplinary process. You should have been informed by your employer that you can appeal, the date you should appeal by, and who you should appeal to.

You can appeal the disciplinary outcome if you wish by using the template below:

[divider top=”1″] Should I appeal the outcome of the disciplinary process?

The short answer is that if you’re unhappy with the outcome of the disciplinary process then you should appeal it.

[divider top=”1″] How do I appeal the outcome of the disciplinary process?

By submitting a disciplinary appeal letter to the relevant person within the time frame you’ve been given. Please find below a disciplinary appeal letter template.

[divider top=”1″] Where can I get legal help during my disciplinary process?
  • Advisory Conciliation and Arbitration Service (“ACAS”)
  • Citizen’s Advice Bureau
  • Speak to your Trade Union
  • Speak to a specialist employment law solicitor

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