September 7, 2015

Disciplinary hearings

Disciplinary hearings – do you know what you are doing?

 

You have a staff member that has done something wrong, something that has had an impact on the your team and the company – to a small business this could be as simple as your employee being constantly late or a situation more serious such as theft or loss of reputation, but do you know how to deal with it?

 

You should know that before you take any action, there are certain obligations that you must follow, so it isn’t as simple as giving your employee a telling off and then marching them out of the door with their P45 in their back pocket. Even in the most serious of cases you have rules that you have to follow, and if you don’t you could end up in sticky, expensive water.

 

Did you know for example that an employment tribunal can award a 25% uplift on compensation for employers that don’t follow the procedures as laid out in the ACAS Code of Practice? So not only can you potentially face claims of unfair dismissal and the associated compensation, but additional costs for failing to follow due process. It isn’t a situation that you want to get into…

 

So it’s vital for you as a business to have the right policies in place within your employee handbook that will tell your employees what is expected of them and also guide your managers in how to manage these situations when they arise.

 

Even if you have an incredibly serious scenario whereby an employee is physically violent or commits fraud, the employee still has rights – however you can deal with these potential instances of gross misconduct in an efficient and timely manner by suspending them from the workplace with immediate affect; at least this way you limit the risk to the business of the alleged offense happening again by confirming that the employee has to stay away from the company premises until any disciplinary hearing.

 

Just so you know you still have to pay your employee during a period of suspension, otherwise you would be penalising them before you have conducted any investigation or heard their disciplinary hearing. This would be unfair.

 

The ACAS Code of Practice has very specific guidelines in how to deal with disciplinary situations so that a fair and equitable process is followed, in a nutshell they are:

 

• Conduct an investigation
• Write to your employee inviting them to a hearing
• Provide the employee with the notes from the investigation and any evidence that you are going to use in the hearing
• Allow them the right of accompaniment (this can be a fellow work colleague or a trade union rep)
• Conduct the hearing and adjourn before you make your decision
• Deliver your decision giving your employee the right of appeal
• Confirm your decision in writing along with the minutes
• Hold an appeal hearing if requested

 

The above are the bare minimum that you should be adhering to and if you do follow these requirements then you will go a long way in ensuring that you run the process properly and with as little risk as possible to your business. And what does it mean when you run a robust process whereby you follow the required guidelines and don’t unfairly treat an employee?…no costly litigation!

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