The relationship between employer and employee is a personal one: each must rely upon and trust the other. When something happens to upset that relationship, and employment is put at risk, this affects every part of the employee’s life.
The threat of losing employment is not just the threat of losing a job but the loss of an income, lifestyle and status. For most people, losing their job can have ramifications which far exceed the actual dismissal.
This is particularly the case for employees who lose their employment for a misconduct issue. Such dismissals can result in difficulties finding alternative employment or having to take a position several rungs down the career ladder.
Despite this, all too often employees are willing to attend disciplinary meetings or answer allegations of misconduct without any proper preparation or defence.
Employers are required to follow a fair procedure when considering the alleged misconduct of an employee and it is up to the employee to fully utilise the opportunities such a procedure presents.
I have set out below some top tips for anyone facing disciplinary action. If you find yourself the subject of a misconduct investigation or invited to a disciplinary meeting, these are some golden rules you should follow:
What are the allegations?
You must find out exactly what the allegations against you are prior to the disciplinary meeting. It is quite common for employees to be invited to a disciplinary meeting and only find out the detail of their alleged misconduct during the meeting itself.
You should be provided with sufficient information to enable you to prepare and respond to the allegations. Your employer should inform you what the alleged incidents are, when they occurred and why those incidents are matters of misconduct.
Obtain a copy of your employer’s disciplinary procedure
If your employer has not already provided you with a copy of their disciplinary procedure, then request one. Many employees do not have access to their employer’s disciplinary procedure and therefore have no information about how the disciplinary process will be conducted and what the likely outcome will be.
Always attend the disciplinary meeting
You should always attend your disciplinary meeting. It is your legal right to take along either a Trade Union Representative or a fellow colleague.
It is extremely useful to have someone present during the meeting; not only as a companion to support you, but to take notes for you and act as a witness if required in the future.
Make sure you have an independent record of the meeting rather than relying solely on the employer’s notes or minutes. If you can, record the meeting to avoid any dispute over what was or was not said.
Assuming your employer intends to deal with the matter properly, fairly and in accordance with their disciplinary procedure, there can be no objection to allowing you to record the meeting.
Take a disciplinary statement
Attending a disciplinary meeting can be a very stressful, daunting experience and even if employees have prepared for the meeting itself, they can forget to mention certain points or get sidetracked by their employer’s agenda.
It is therefore extremely useful to prepare a disciplinary statement to take into the meeting with you. Make sure you have enough copies for each of the disciplinary panel members so they can all take a copy away with them. There is then of course a record of what representations you made and there is no risk that your points can be ignored.
If you disagree with the outcome to the disciplinary, you must appeal. All employees have the right to appeal against the decision even if the employer does not give you the option. The appeal should be in writing and include full grounds as to why you disagree with your employer’s decision. There then should be a review of the decision made by independent person within the organisation.
Finally, if you believe your employer has been unfair in their treatment of you, you should consider submitting a claim to the Employment Tribunal. Currently there is no cost or fee to submit a claim and you can do so by post, fax or online.
However, for claims submitted on or after July 29, 2013, the Employment Tribunal will require a fee to be paid for issuing the claim and when the matter is listed for hearing.
Sally Hubbard is the Head of the Employment Law Team at Ringrose Law. The team is made up of dedicated and experienced specialists, helping both employees and employers with their work related issues. Sally has specialised in Employment Law for her entire career, and has represented countless clients at the Employment Tribunal.