What to do if you’re facing disciplinary action

What to do if you’re facing disciplinary action

It hopefully goes without saying that, when at work, you need to display the highest levels of honesty and integrity, you need to comply with the company’s rules and you need to carry out your work to the best of your ability.

However, if things have gone wrong for some reason, and your company has asked you to attend a disciplinary hearing, what can you do to try and make the best of the situation?

A typical company disciplinary procedure might allow the following sanctions to be imposed:

  • An informal warning, perhaps delivered verbally
  • A first formal written warning
  • A final formal written warning
  • Dismissal

Depending on the seriousness of the allegation, the company may not need to follow all of these steps. For example, gross misconduct is likely to lead to you being dismissed, without any prior warnings. The term ‘gross misconduct’ covers conduct such as theft, violence, fraud, other criminal activity and serious cases of insubordination.

However, dismissal can also result from what may at first seem to be relatively minor allegations regarding poor performance. For performance issues, your company may first issue you with some form of warning, but if you are unable to demonstrate improvement, then dismissal is likely to follow.

If you have been asked to attend a disciplinary hearing, you should first carefully examine the allegation made by the company – they should have done this in writing. You then need to think of all the reasons you possibly can as to why you believe the company is mistaken in making the allegation. For example, you may think that your employer is not justified in criticising your performance because you have not received the necessary training. You should also think of all the positive feedback you have received from colleagues in the past. Any other evidence you think is relevant, perhaps including medical evidence, should also be included in your dossier.

Make a note of everything you think could be used in your favour, and take these with you to the meeting to remind you of what you need to say. A formal disciplinary hearing should allow you to present your case to someone who maintains a degree of independence, for example the hearing may be conducted by an HR representative rather than by your line manager. If you are a member of a trade union, get a union representative to accompany you to the meeting.

Your company is legally required to allow you to make an internal appeal against the findings of a disciplinary hearing. Otherwise, appeals against dismissals and other disciplinary action can be made to employment tribunals, although it is now a requirement for the parties to attempt to reach agreement via conciliation first.

Even if you manage to emerge from a disciplinary process intact, it may be time to take stock of your career and consider whether you should move on. It may also be in your best interests to resign before the disciplinary process has completed. Subject to certain legal safeguards, a previous employer can mention action taken against you in a reference.

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