Guidance on How to Proceed with a Disciplinary Matter

A disciplinary matter must be dealt with at a formal meeting. It is no longer acceptable for you to issue warnings without this procedure. If you were asked to justify your actions in front of an Employment Tribunal they would not accept that you had complied with the law unless you had dealt with the matter in the laid-down format.

In most cases a letter calling the employee to a disciplinary hearing must be issued. The letter must state the date, time, location, reason for the hearing and the name of who will chair it. The hearing will allow the employee to give their point of view before you reach a decision to issue a warning, or if serious enough to dismiss.

All employees have the right to be accompanied at a hearing either by a trade union officer or a working colleague. The employee does not have a right to bring a Solicitor, Barrister or similarly qualified person.

Thorough preparation is the key to any successful disciplinary meeting. You must not go in with a preconceived idea that the employee is guilty, but with an open mind no matter what the current facts indicate. This can be very difficult but is of great importance.

As the employer you are the person controlling the meeting and you should steer it through to its conclusion and the decision.

We strongly suggest that you prepare an extensive list of questions; in this way you will have an appropriate question to ask whichever way the conversation goes.

On arrival at the meeting, introduce yourself and the person you have selected to sit in as minute taker. Explain that the minute taker will not play an active part in the proceedings - they are there simply to take notes. You should then refer to the agenda, and ask for confirmation that the employee received written notification of the meeting, its purpose and that it was received in good time. You should then ask the employee to confirm the identity of their companion for record purposes.

You are now ready to proceed with the meeting.

Initially explain the purpose of the meeting e.g. "The reason for the meeting is your unacceptable level of absenteeism and failure to follow the reporting procedure as per your terms and conditions".

Outline your understanding of the situation, e.g. "On checking your records I can see that you have been absent over the last 2 months for 12 days over 4 separate occasions. I also see that on only one occasion did you follow the correct procedure and call in to advise us of your absence."

You will then ask the employee to express their views, giving them the opportunity to explain the reasons for their absence and lack of contact.

The questions you have prepared will allow you to control the conversation.

Once you have asked your questions and feel that you have enough information on which to base your decision, you should ask the employee and their companion if they have anything else they wish to be considered. Once their summing up is complete you may adjourn the meeting to allow time to consider the situation. If you are uncertain as to the correct action at this point then seek advice; you may ring on 01455 613743 for guidance and we usually give one piece of advice free of charge.

You may reconvene to confirm your decision and to outline the employee's right to appeal against any action taken. Alternatively, if you feel more time is needed to consider the decision, state that you will be in touch with the employee as soon as possible.

Finally you will type up the minutes and generate the warning or dismissal letter, as appropriate. You must remember to confirm to the employee in writing their right to appeal and explain to them how to do this.

Although you cannot expect a disciplinary hearing to be pleasant, you can ensure that the meeting goes as smoothly as possible by being in control of the situation and by steering the meeting to its conclusion. An employer who is in control and remains calm throughout the proceedings will ensure as much information as possible is extracted and proportionate action is taken against the employee.

If you are confident and in control an employee is more likely to appreciate the Company's point of view and so may be more accepting of the outcome.

For information:

A disciplinary hearing letter to address a general misconduct issue should include the following:

  • details of why the hearing is necessary.
  • Date, time and location of the hearing.
  • Name of the chairperson and the fact that a minute taker will be in attendance.
  • Employee's right to be accompanied in line with the Employment Relations Act 1999.

A disciplinary hearing letter to address a gross misconduct issue should include the following:

  • details of why the hearing is necessary.
  • Date, time and location of the hearing.
  • Name of the chairperson and the fact that a minute taker will be in attendance.
  • Employee's right to be accompanied in line with the Employment Relations Act 1999.
  • Employment is at risk as a result of the hearing.

This information is of a generic nature and is for guidance purposes only. Particular situations may require modification. You may receive up to 10 minutes free telephone advice once in any 12 month period - see the website for details.

Advice is available for businesses not currently retaining, once in any 12-month period by ringing 01455 444 222 option 1. In addition details can be obtained of our Pay As You Go or advice services by contacting the same number.

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Please note that the content of this information is updated when the law changes, hence it can only be guaranteed correct on the day it is downloaded.