How Do You Prepare for a Disciplinary Hearing as an Employee?

If you’ve been called to a disciplinary hearing with your employer, you have the right to defend yourself. We’ll show you how to prepare for a hearing and what to expect.

What is a disciplinary hearing?

A disciplinary hearing is a meeting between an employer and employee. You must be given fair notice of when to attend and the allegations made against you.

This is a precursor to any disciplinary action being taken. It’s an opportunity to sit down with your employer to discuss the allegation, and for you to prove that they’re untrue or unfounded.

Generally, disciplinary hearings relate to:
  • Conduct

Are you behaving in a professional manner?
  • Capability

Are you up to the job?
  • Presence

Are you taking too much time off work?

Can I resign or hand in my notice before a disciplinary hearing?

You can choose to hand in your notice or resign before your disciplinary hearing.

However, think of this as the ‘nuclear option’. It should be your last resort – especially if the allegations made against you are probably false.

Walking away from your job could have a major impact on your life and future work. If you’re considering resigning before your hearing, it’s best to first discuss your situation with a solicitor.

Instead of immediately walking away, it’s generally best to learn more about what the allegations are and prepare a solid defence.

How to get ready for a disciplinary hearing

You’ll need to be ready to defend yourself in a disciplinary hearing, so preparation is essential – and the sooner you start, the better.
  • Check your employer is following procedure

Before they can take disciplinary action, your employer has a duty to inform you of any forthcoming disciplinary hearing in writing.

You should be given plenty of time to prepare your defence, too – at least 3 to 5 days.

Alongside your invitation, the letter (or email) should also include details and evidence of the allegation against you; what possible disciplinary action means for your (e.g., dismissal); a breakdown of the disciplinary process.
And that’s just the basics.

Your employer should also outline their general disciplinary procedure for the benefit of all staff. Usually this is found in your contract, welcome pack, or on the work’s intranet. This procedure should comply with the ACAS Code of Practice. Check that it does.

Also consider whether your employer followed non-disciplinary procedures – so, if they’re questioning your capabilities, have you been given the proper training? Have they tried working with you to find alternative arrangements if you’ve taken too much sick leave?

If you fear or find the company you work for isn’t following the correct process, talk to an employment solicitor.
  • Gather your own evidence

Before proceeding with a hearing, your employer will have gathered evidence – for example, emails that  show misconduct or work you’ve failed to complete.

Once this is put to you, it’s time to start gathering your own evidence. Go through everything your employer has with a fine-tooth comb. Then go through your contract, too. This may help you get an idea of what sort of evidence you need.

Print (and save) emails – for instance, correspondence showing a superior asking you to do something improper or cutting corners and, in response your refusal to do so. If you’re dealing with confidential emails, or those that aren’t allowed to be taken ‘off-site’, request a copy of them from your manager. If your employer declines, speak to a solicitor.

If the disciplinary hearing is related to your working capabilities, such as regularly starting late, look for evidence that’s timestamped. Depending on the disciplinary, you may also need to see CCTV footage.

You should also be on the look-out for examples where your colleagues have acted in the same way and not received a disciplinary for it. It’s possible that you could have a discrimination claim on your hands.

If you’re experiencing an issue that’s not so readily proved – you’ve been consistently late, for example, but you haven’t disclosed the fact that a family member is sick – think about noting your explanation.

A disciplinary hearing shouldn’t be an aggressive face-off between you and your employer. Instead, use this space to outline your reasons and if necessary, request compassion. Your employer will be as keen to resolve the issue as you are.

Anything, in short, pertaining to the investigation that may disprove the allegation. If it’s in writing, so much the better.

If you don’t feel you’ve been given adequate time to prepare a defence, you can request rescheduling the hearing within a reasonable timeframe. Likewise, an employer can postpone a disciplinary hearing.
  • Prepare supporting documents

In addition to any evidence, collect any supporting documents that may disprove the allegation made against you.

If, for example, someone has accused you of misconduct, you may want to highlight your unblemished service record with the company. If your capabilities have been called into question, consider digging out examples of client or customer praise for your work.

In other words, these supporting documents act as your ‘character witness’. Again, try to make sure you have written evidence of these.
  • Write down your rebuttal

It’s not enough to just gather refuting evidence. Once you have all the documents and proof you feel you need, you can really prepare your defence.

Simply having it in your head won’t be enough. Disciplinary hearings can be tense and emotionally charged, and it’s easy to get caught up in the moment, leading to key facts slipping your mind.

So, write it all down. It’ll make your defence that much stronger. Break down the allegations one by one, and pair these with their evidence and yours. Use your supporting documents to back up your claims.

This might be in note-form, but it’s better to seriously dismiss the charges made against you. At the minimum, have a clear idea of the employer’s claims and how you wish to respond.
  • Choose a representative

In a disciplinary hearing, you’re allowed to bring along a companion. Usually, this is a work colleague,  employee or union representative.

If you’re disabled, your employer has an obligation to make reasonable adjustments – and this means you may be able to bring along a support worker instead.

Beyond this, your employer is under no obligation to let you bring others into the hearing  – whether it’s a friend, partner, or legal representative. This is entirely at the company’s discretion.

The person you choose should be independent and up to speed on the case. Be honest with them. Once in the hearing, they’ll be able to make notes and discuss the case with you. They’re also allowed to state or sum up your defence.

Choose wisely.
  • Prepare yourself mentally

 Going through the disciplinary process can take a huge toll on your mental well-being. It can be stressful, fraught with emotion, especially if you believe the hearing is incorrect or unfair.

With the threat of disciplinary action hanging over you, you could find yourself losing confidence in your work. You’re worrying about lost wages. You’re concerned that the disciplinary remains on your employment record, impacting future job searches.

Prepare yourself for this.

You might find it useful to practice talking the issue through with your partner or a friend. And not only because a problem shared is a problem halved. By explaining the scenario and your evidence with someone outside of the business, you’ll be able to see how others perceive the issue and whether it sounds fair or unfair.

How to beat disciplinary hearings

So, you’re wondering how to be successful at a disciplinary hearing.

The easiest way is to prove the allegations made against you are wrong. Tell the truth and have the evidence to back it up.

But even with mountains of evidence, there’s no guarantee you’ll beat the disciplinary. At this point, you may wish to take legal advice.

You should also talk to an employment solicitor if you believe your employer is failing to follow the correct procedure or adhering to their legal duty. This includes possible unfair or constructive dismissal claims.

Use our quick form to find an employment solicitor near you.