You should also be offered the option to take along a ‘companion’. This is your legal right, and one worth exercising. It should be a work colleague or a union representative, although your employer may allow others, depending on your circumstances.
Unfortunately, employers rarely allow you to bring legal representation – if you feel like you require that, then speak to an employment solicitor.
Before you walk into that meeting, make sure you’re completely ready to defend yourself against allegations.
During the coronavirus pandemic, your disciplinary hearing may be held virtually. If this happens, you, your employer, and your companion or representative must connect to the meeting on a video call.
What happens at a disciplinary hearing?
Hearing the case
You step into the meeting room and take a seat. You’ll be greeted by your employer, alongside a note-taker who will record the meeting in writing.
Ideally, the manager conducting the hearing should be different to the one who carried out the investigation, as this makes the disciplinary procedure less biased. It’s not always practical or possible, though. In larger organisations, you may face a panel although this should still be chaired by one person.
At the start of your hearing, your employer will restate the case against you. You’ll hear details of the allegations and see presentation of evidence. Witness statements may also be included.
After listening to the case against you, you’ll be given the chance to raise a defence. Your employer must let you set out your case and respond to all allegations.
During this time, make sure you:
- Show any evidence that disputes the allegations
- Use supporting documents that help bolster your work and credentials
- Ask questions
- Call, question, and respond to witnesses, if applicable
This is arguably the most important part of the hearing. And incorrectly handling it could lead to losing your job.
Disciplinary hearings can get emotional. Some employees lash out in the heat of the moment, while others find the whole process too nerve-wracking to talk.
Stay cool and level-headed throughout, making sure to rely on the notes and prep-work you did in the run up to the meeting.
Companions and representatives in disciplinary hearings
If you find the disciplinary process overwhelming, it’s time to call on the services of your union rep or companion.
First, make sure they fully understand the case against you and your defence. That way, during the hearing, they’ll be able to:
- Set out your case at the start and sum up at the end
- Respond to comments on your behalf
- Privately discuss the allegations with you
- Make notes
What they can’t do, without the employer’s consent, is answer questions for you.
Ending the hearing
As the hearing draws to a close, your employer will explain the next steps in the process.
Before taking any disciplinary action, your employer will go and review the allegation and the evidence. They may also want to investigate any disputes or conflicts that arise.
If you accept the case against you, you should be allowed to make a statement of mitigation.
For example, if you agree that you lacked the capability to perform your job, you may wish to raise the fact that you were never given training or were not told the correct procedure.
In some cases, the employer may accept your evidence and end the disciplinary process. This might be when an honest mistake has occurred.
What happens after a disciplinary meeting?
Once it’s over, keep an eye on your inbox. Look out for a written record and check it accurately reflects the meeting. You may be asked to sign this as confirmation.
After careful consideration, your employer may take the decision to:
- Give you a formal warning
- Suspend or demote you
- End the process
- Dismiss you
You’ll be notified of the decision in writing, where the employer also sets out what you did, what improvements they’d like to see, and any penalties to be imposed.
What if I dispute the decision?
No matter what the outcome, you’re entitled to appeal any disciplinary decision.
Don’t go straight to an employment tribunal – they may cut any compensation due if you don’t first appeal to your employer.
When your employer notifies you about the outcome of the hearing, they should also give you a reasonable deadline for making an appeal. Check your employee handbook for how to make an appeal if your employer doesn’t tell you.
An appeal could lead to a second hearing, or your employer may just review the details of the original hearing.
You can challenge disciplinary action if:
- The process was against company procedure or the Acas Code of Practice
- Decisions have been made without evidence
- You believe the decision is unfair or disproportionate
- You have further evidence or supporting documents
Any appeal should be lodged as soon as possible.
What happens if I lose my disciplinary appeal?
If your appeal fails, or you believe your employment rights have been breached during the disciplinary procedure, then you should consider legal advice.
A solicitor can help you settle the issue with your employer. This may see them help you a return to work or, in the case of dismissal, negotiate the termination of your contract and any benefits due.
Should the case go to an employment tribunal, a solicitor will also help you prepare. Speak to a solicitor as soon as you can, as you only have three months to submit a claim.
Get help finding an employment solicitor near you with The Law Superstore’s quick quote form.