What Happens At a Disciplinary Meeting?

Find out what you can expect when you go into your disciplinary hearing.

You have an invitation to attend a disciplinary hearing. In it, your employer should share details of the allegations made against you. Generally, these allegations will centre around three issues – your conduct in the workplace, your ability to do your job, or time spent off work.

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. 

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 the presentation of evidence. Witness statements may also be included.

Defending yourself

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 how well you prepare for your disciplinary hearing, there’s a chance your employer will still take disciplinary action against you.

This may include:

  • Dismissal

  • Suspension or demotion

  • Formal warning

Your employer’s decision should be fair, proportionate, and based on evidence heard during your disciplinary. But that doesn’t mean you have to accept the outcome of a disciplinary.

You have a legal right to appeal a disciplinary if you believe:

  • The disciplinary process was mishandled

  • The action taken was unfair or too harsh

  • You have further evidence or documents to support your case

After your disciplinary hearing, your employer should write to you informing you of the disciplinary action. In this letter or email, they should let you know you can appeal the decision.

This may be with your HR department or manager – check your company’s handbook for details on the process.

Lodge your appeal in writing within 5 days of the outcome. This ‘countdown’ starts once you receive the outcome of your hearing in writing. Time is of the essence, and any delay may reflect poorly on the case.

In your appeal, explain why you believe the employer’s action is wrong and how you’d like to proceed. For example, you may want them to review any new evidence you have or re-sit the disciplinary hearing.

What to expect during your appeal

Once you’ve made your appeal, expect a similar process as your disciplinary hearing.
Your employer will write to you confirming the date, time, and location, while giving you enough time (usually 3 to 5 days) to prepare.

The meeting should be carried out by a member of staff not involved in the original hearing or pre-disciplinary investigation. Wherever possible, a more senior employer should conduct the meeting. This should lead to an impartial and unbiased appeal. For the same reasons, any re-investigation of the allegations should also be conducted by a different staff member.

During the appeal, you’ll again hear the allegations against you. You should restate your defence, offer any extra evidence you have, and generally ensure the disciplinary process follows the ACAS Code of Practice.

Both you and your employer may ask questions that help resolve the case.

As with your original hearing, you can bring along a companion or employee representative. However, without your employer’s consent – which is highly unlikely – you can’t bring legal representation.

Make sure you keep all documents and communications relating to the allegations against you. You may need them if you later seek legal advice.

What to do if your appeal fails

If your appeal still fails, it may be time to find a solicitor who can help. They will be able to advise on your next steps.

Early conciliation

Early conciliation sees you discuss the matter with your employer and try to find a solution agreeable to both parties. A solicitor can represent you, communicating with your employer and acting as a mediator.

If your case is eligible for an employment tribunal, it’s expected that you’ve tried early conciliation. Not taking this step could seriously harm your claim and see you lose out on pay.

During conciliation, your solicitor can negotiate your return to work or the termination of your contract plus any pay and benefits due.

At the end of this process, which can take up to 6 weeks, you and your employer receive the legally binding COT3 agreement should you reached a solution.

If no agreement was reached, you’ll get a certificate that can then be used when bringing the case to an employment tribunal.

Employment tribunal

Before taking the case to a tribunal, it’s a good idea to speak to an employment solicitor. This is now a legal matter, and you’ll want to make sure you get it right the first time.

Employment tribunals are used when you’ve been treated unlawfully. For example, you’ve been unfairly dismissed, faced workplace discrimination, or your employer has illegally docked your pay. Losing your job over health and safety matters or whistleblowing is also a reason to take a case to tribunal.

Not all workers can make a claim with an employment tribunal, though. A solicitor will be able to advise.
The first step is to notify ACAS that you intend to put in a claim (and if you haven’t already done so, been? offered the option of early conciliation).

Once notified, you and your solicitor can begin to make your claim.

Your employer will also be told of the hearing at least 14 days before it takes place.

Alternative options

A solicitor may advise that your case isn’t appropriate for an employment tribunal. However, you may still have some recourse. They may even believe you can take your case to court.

Speak to an employment solicitor

Whether you’re looking to settle a disciplinary issue or take your employer into a tribunal, an employment solicitor is best placed to give you the expert advice you need and help you prepare your case.

You won’t need one during the early stages of a disciplinary. But it can be wise to get them involved as soon as your employer takes any disputed disciplinary action.

Use The Law Superstore’s quick quote form to find an employment solicitor with the right experience at the right price.

What to do when attending a disciplinary hearing?

When attending a disciplinary hearing, it's important to be well-prepared and composed. Firstly, familiarise yourself with the details of the allegations against you.

Review any relevant documents or evidence provided by your employer. It's advisable to prepare a clear and concise response to each point raised.

You have the right to be accompanied by a colleague or a trade union representative. During the hearing, listen carefully, respond honestly to questions, and present your side of the story clearly.

It's also important to take notes during the hearing for your records.

Is a disciplinary hearing a dismissal?

A disciplinary hearing is not necessarily a dismissal. It is a meeting to discuss allegations of misconduct or performance issues and to give the employee an opportunity to respond.

The outcome of a disciplinary hearing can vary, ranging from no action, a warning, or in some cases, it could lead to dismissal.

However, dismissal is typically considered a last resort and usually follows a series of warnings or previous disciplinary actions, unless the misconduct is severe.

Should I be worried about a disciplinary hearing?

It's natural to feel concerned about a disciplinary hearing, but it's important to approach it with a calm and prepared mindset.

Remember, the purpose of the hearing is to discuss the issues raised and to give you a chance to present your side. It's an opportunity for open dialogue and not necessarily an indication of an imminent negative outcome.

Being well-prepared, understanding the allegations, and having a clear account of your perspective can help alleviate some of the worry.

How do I prepare myself for a disciplinary meeting?

To prepare for a disciplinary meeting, follow these steps:

  1. Understand the Allegations: Make sure you have a clear understanding of the allegations against you. Request written details if you haven't already received them.

  2. Gather Evidence: Collect any relevant documents, emails, or other evidence that support your case or provide context to the situation.

  3. Prepare Your Response: Think about how you will respond to each point of the allegation. Be honest and factual in your responses.

  4. Know Your Rights: Familiarise yourself with your company's disciplinary policy and your legal rights, including the right to be accompanied.

  5. Seek Advice: Consider seeking advice from a trade union representative, HR professional, or legal advisor, especially if the allegations are serious.

  6. Plan Your Questions: Prepare any questions you have about the process or the allegations.

  7. Stay Calm and Professional: During the meeting, remain calm, listen carefully, and articulate your responses clearly and professionally.

  8. Take Notes: Keep detailed notes during the meeting for your records.

  9. Consider the Outcome: Be prepared for various outcomes and think about your next steps in each scenario.