Disciplinary at Work. An Overview
If you are an employee who has worked for the same employer for two years straight, you are protected from unfair dismissals. This means that your employer can only fire you based on “fair reasons” among those listed in the Employment Rights Act 1996.
Furthermore, your manager or boss would have to follow a disciplinary procedure before they can dismiss you for:
- Not being able to do your job correctly
You can often find this procedure in your employment contract, the staff handbook, or a similar document. If the organisation doesn’t have its own disciplinary procedures, it should follow the guidelines contained in the Acas Code of Practice on disciplinary and grievance procedures.
We will go over each of the reasons for dismissal listed above in the sections below and discuss what you can do if you are going through a disciplinary procedure at work.
- Disciplinary at Work. An Overview
- Misconduct and Disciplinary at Work
- Inability to Do Your Job Correctly & Disciplinary at Work
- What Are My Rights During Disciplinary Procedures?
- Phases of a Disciplinary Procedure
- Can I Get Suspended From Work During a Disciplinary Process?
- What Happens If I’m Denied a Fair Procedure?
- We Can Help
- Frequently Asked Questions
Misconduct and Disciplinary at Work
You could be charged with misconduct if you engage in behaviours such as:
- Unauthorised absence from work or constant lateness
- A dishonest act
- Discrimination, harassment, or bullying towards coworkers and/or customers
- Acts of aggression
- Stubborn refusal to follow reasonable orders and instructions
- Violation of data protection and social media policies at work
- Attempts at damaging your employer’s reputation
- Working while drunk or under the influence of drugs
In some cases, your employer could take disciplinary actions against you even for misconduct outside the workplace if it harmed the company’s image or hurt its business.
Inability to Do Your Job Correctly & Disciplinary at Work
Apart from misconduct, your boss can initiate a disciplinary process if you have been performing poorly on the job. These performance problems must consist of persistent failures to reach a goal and not just one individual mistake. They can determine this by looking at your latest performance reviews.
If you were “slacking on the job”, as in performing poorly on purpose or due to extreme negligence, your employer could reasonably perceive this as misconduct rather than a performance problem. Hence, your employment records could get severely tarnished as a result.
1. Right to Defence
You have the right to defend yourself from the accusations brought up against you, and your employer should give you reasonable time to state your case and bring proof and witnesses (if any). They should usually grant you at least three to five days to prepare.
Apart from your right to make your defence, you also have the right to be heard. Your employer must not only receive your arguments and evidence, but they’re required to evaluate and give a reasonable response to all of them. If your claims are being rejected, your employer would have to explain their rejection with sufficient detail and clarity.
2. Right to an Appeal
If your employer takes decisive disciplinary action against you, you have the right to an appeal. If possible, they should designate a person responsible for hearing appeals different from the person who handled the original procedure and who can ensure a degree of objectivity.
3. Right to be Accompanied
You should be allowed to be accompanied by:
- A coworker
- A trade union representative or trade union official
- A Citizen Advice Bureau
Your companion could answer questions on your behalf if you so wish, but only under the employer’s authorisation. Your employer could also allow you to bring accompaniment to any hearings held during the initial investigations, though they are not legally required to do so.
Occasionally, your employer would initiate an investigation or assess your past performance reviews. This is not part of the procedure, properly speaking, though it regularly leads to it.
During this first phase, they could invite you to an investigatory meeting to hear your feedback. However, they’re not obliged to do so since, at this point, they are simply collecting information and evidence from various sources to build the case for a future disciplinary.
Whenever you suspect that there may be an investigation against you, you ought to try to engage in informal talks with your employer and clear up any misunderstandings. For example, if the issue concerns your absences from work, you can attempt to explain them away and provide evidence that justifies them (e.g., a doctor’s note).
After an initial assessment of the case, your employer can choose to initiate the procedure. If they decide to move forward, they must notify you.
This notice should state what the procedure is about and the possible negative consequences that may result from it (written warning or dismissal). It also has to indicate the time and place for the disciplinary meeting.
If you feel that the timeframe given by your employer is too tight, you can always ask them to postpone the disciplinary hearing in a courteous manner.
Your employer should not reach a decision before the disciplinary meeting takes place, considering that this is your best opportunity to make your defence allegations.
You’d want to gather as much evidence and information as possible to prepare for your disciplinary meeting. You could ask for recordings (preferably CCTV footage with timestamps), documents, emails, receipts, attendance records, and other similar pieces of evidence to make your defence more believable.
It’s also crucial to look for possible witnesses at this stage. They could be coworkers, customers and/or partners.
It’s recommended that you write down your rebuttal, as disciplinary meetings can get very heated, and it’s remarkably easy for the discussions to get derailed. You could use bullet points or a mind map to get you back on track whenever you lose your train of thought.
As outlined earlier, you can bring a companion along to the meetings, but not without telling your employer first. Apart from the people mentioned at the beginning, you could bring friends or family members, but they’d have to be authorised by the person handling the case. They could take notes while you state your case and engage in back-and-forth with your boss or the person presiding.
Take the time to study how your employer usually handles these processes. If you know of a coworker or ex-employee who has been recently immersed in one of these disciplinary or dismissal procedures, you can ask them for details to see if there are any differences in treatment. If there are, you could make a discrimination claim.
You mustn’t lose your temper in these meetings. Try always to show a calm and collected demeanour. If necessary, appeal to your employer’s goodwill and apologise whenever possible. In most scenarios, these conflicts emerge from genuine misunderstandings, and communication is key to dissipating any confusion.
Decision (Disciplinary Action)
Your employer or person in charge would usually make a decision right after the disciplinary meeting ends, but they may delay this decision to a later time. Your employer should contact you as soon as possible and announce the action they decided to take. In most situations, this action would be:
- A written warning
- A dismissal letter
Alternatively, your employer may decide to demote you or give a final warning before taking further disciplinary action. In addition, if the issue was caused by a quarrel with teammates, your employer could agree to act as a mediator behind closed doors.
The decision should state your right to appeal. If you want to appeal, you’d have to inform your employer in writing, expressing your main reasons why.
Your employer is then obliged to offer you another meeting to resolve your appeal as soon as possible. The hearing should ideally be conducted by a different person or department, though this is not always viable.
The meeting is similar to the one in the original procedure, and you’re also allowed to bring a companion.
Can I Get Suspended From Work During a Disciplinary Process?
You could get suspended but usually with pay. Initially, the employment contract could stipulate otherwise, but in that case, the suspension has to be reasonable.
A suspension is typically coupled with several other limitations. For example, your employer may ask you not to speak with other employees, clients, and/or suppliers while the issue is resolved.
During your suspension, you keep your employment rights, including the option to make an employment tribunal claim for “unlawful deduction from wages”.
What Happens If I’m Denied a Fair Procedure?
You can submit a claim form to an employment tribunal if your employer fails to follow a fair disciplinary procedure.
If the errors in the procedure led to your dismissal, you could challenge that dismissal even if the reasons for it were ultimately “fair”. Even when the facts were unquestionably proven, the tribunal hearing your case could point out that your employer acted rashly in dismissing you and that the most appropriate response was to issue a warning instead.
You have three months minus one day to make your tribunal claim for unfair dismissal. However, before you proceed further, you must notify Acas, who will then offer an early conciliation. Acas will mediate between you and your employer and will try to provide impartial advice. If an agreement is not possible, they will issue an early conciliation certificate that you can then attach to your claim form.
Employer-employee relations can turn rough during the early stages of a disciplinary procedure. It’s crucial that you remain level-headed at all times and, most importantly, get legal support as soon as you’re aware of the possibility of being disciplined.
Over the years, our qualified employment solicitors have aided tons of employees, senior executives, directors, board members, and partners secure an effective defence strategy when faced with strenuous workplace disciplinaries, with optimal results in all situations. We can assist you from the moment you are summoned to the first disciplinary hearings to the final stages of an employment tribunal process.
Contact us now by calling 03334149244 and schedule an appointment with us so that we may help you explore your options.
Ordinarily, you’ll receive a verbal/informal warning, a first written warning, and one final written warning before dismissal. However, you could get dismissed without prior notice in cases of gross misconduct. Examples of gross misconduct include physical violence, theft, blatant insubordination, and severe negligence.
If you feel you’re being rightfully charged with gross misconduct and are confident you’ll get dismissed, it’s probably the best course of action. You wouldn’t want a dismissal for gross misconduct to appear in your employment records as that could be very detrimental to any future work aspirations you may have.
Nevertheless, making these rash decisions is not advised without consulting a legal advisor first.
Though they should try to remain transparent, employers are allowed in specific situations to keep an investigation secret if there’s a legitimate fear that evidence could get destroyed, especially in cases where a crime was committed.
Acas is the Advisory, Conciliation, and Arbitration Service. It’s a public body under the UK government that promotes and facilitates solid industrial relations and offers impartial advice on workplace rights and rules.
A disability cannot be grounds for a disciplinary process. If you acquire a long-term illness, your employer could still dismiss you, but not before doing everything they can to keep you employed, such as offering a long period of leave or a suitable alternative role.