There are times in a workplace where an employer may have to invite one of their employees to attend disciplinary meetings. From an employee’s point of view, situations like this can be incredibly stressful. Equally, handling disciplinary issues from an employer’s perspective is fraught with pitfalls and may lead to claims of unfairness or even unfair dismissal.
In this article we will look at the topic of disciplinary meetings in more detail. We will endeavour to answer as many questions around the subject as possible. And we will give advice on the best practices that can be implemented to make them easier to handle. Let’s begin.
What Are Disciplinary Meetings?
A disciplinary meeting is a meeting between an employer/manager and an employee which could lead to disciplinary action being taken.
Employees are generally asked to attend these meetings because there is evidence that they have done something that may be considered a breach of their contract or company policy.
Why Might an Employee be Asked to Attend a Disciplinary Meeting?
In many cases an employee is invited to a disciplinary meeting because their employer is concerned about their behaviour in some way. These concerns may be about
- The employee’s conduct, for example, something they have done or not done. This can include things that have been said and may include tricky topics like harassment and bullying
- The employee’s capability to complete their role, for example, the employer doesn’t think the employee is capable of doing their job, or of doing it well enough.
- An employee’s long-term absence.
- Any other reason affecting the employee’s ability to work.
What Disciplinary Actions Can Be Given After a Disciplinary Meeting?
There are a variety of different disciplinary actions that an employer could enforce if an employee is found guilty of a breach. These include:
- To take no further action. They may feel that the meeting in itself is all that was required or that the employee has no case to answer.
- A first or verbal warning. This is often given if this is the employees first transgression, or the offence is minor in nature.
- A written or final warning. This is often given if this is not the employees first transgression, or the offence is considered sever.
- Suspension of the employee. This can be with or without pay at the discretion of the employer and usually dictated by the severity of the offence.
- Demotion. An employee may have their role and position at the company reduced. This may lead to a reduction in pay and privileges.
- Dismissal. The employee may be fired.
How Are Employees Notified of a Disciplinary Meeting?
In most cases the employee will receive a letter asking them to attend a disciplinary meeting. The letter should give the employee enough information as to why your they have been invited to the meeting and will explain the nature of the complaint.
If the employer has evidence, they are obliged to let the employee have this beforehand. This should give the employee enough time to consider it and find evidence to support their case.
Can I Bring Witnesses to my Disciplinary Meeting?
Often, an employee’s evidence can include witnesses. It is perfectly reasonable to request that witnesses be made available for any disciplinary meeting but be aware that they are not compelled to attend.
Can I Bring Someone to My Disciplinary Meeting?
Yes, you can. But bear in mind that if you want someone to come with you, you must ask your employer for permission to do this first.
Who Can Accompany Me to a Disciplinary Meeting?
You can, more often than not, take someone along with you to a disciplinary meeting. This is called the ‘right to be accompanied’. It’s important to note, however, that your employer only has to allow certain people to accompany you.
Employees have the right to be accompanied by any of the following:
- A work colleague.
- A trade union representative.
- An official employed by a trade union.
You don’t usually have a right to bring anyone else. You can ask your employer if someone else can accompany you, but they don’t have to agree to it.
Are There Any Times When I Don’t Have the Right to be Accompanied?
Yes, there are. You don’t have the right to be accompanied in the following circumstances:
- The meeting is considered an informal chat with the employer.
- The meeting is an initial meeting where the employer is trying to find out what happened.
Even though you don’t have a legal right to be accompanied in these situations, you can ask your employer to let you bring someone. They don’t, however, have to agree to it.
What Can My ‘Companion’ Do in The Meeting?
Companions are limited in what they can do in disciplinary meetings. Here is a list of things they can do:
- Take notes on your behalf.
- Present your case on your behalf.
- Sum up your case.
- Talk things over with you during the hearing. This may happen away from the employer and his/her representatives.
How Long Will It Take for An Employer to Make a Decision After the Meeting?
It’s normal practice for an employer not to give their decision at the end of the meeting but to do so a short time later. This will give them time to consider the case before coming to a decision. They may, if required during this time, make additional checks and investigations.
What If I Disagree with The Decision?
If an employee disagrees with the decision, they have the right to appeal against it. The employer should tell the employee how to appeal and there may often be a deadline for it to be filed.
Employer Best Practices
While many of the rules of disciplinary action are geared towards the rights of an employee, it’s important for employers to understand their place in the process. Failing to do so can lead to tribunal action and claims of unfair treatment.
Our biggest tip for employees is to look at the legal aspects of disciplinary action as well as ACAS guidelines and devise a robust policy for dealing with issues fairly.
Disciplinary meetings can be a sensitive subject in the workplace. But with the help of this guide, we hope you feel well armed to deal with issues in the future.