Disciplinary allegations at work? Worried about dismissal?
Being required to attend a disciplinary meeting at work is stressful. Employees worried about losing their jobs because they are accused of misconduct or gross misconduct often find the whole disciplinary process very difficult. There is additional stress in that what you do and say as part of the disciplinary process to defend yourself (including the disciplinary investigation meeting) has ramifications for your employment and for any Employment Tribunal claim you may have in the future.
After over 20 years’ advising clients in disciplinary situations, I know that the first meetings in the disciplinary investigation process are crucial. For most clients, the claim they will bring if they are dismissed is a claim for unfair dismissal at the Employment Tribunal. However, what clients often don’t appreciate is that in considering these types of claims, the Employment Tribunal are not really concerned about whether the employee did or did not commit the acts of misconduct. At the hearing, their focus is actually on what information the employer had when they decided to dismiss. This seems like semantics, but it is incredibly important. So many clients start the process of finding evidence to prove their innocence or support their defence after they have been dismissed. Whilst such evidence is always helpful, the time to gather and produce this information is during the disciplinary process.
Obviously, everyone’s circumstances will be different. I would always advise someone who is subject to disciplinary action to seek legal advice as soon as possible. Obviously, I would hope they would contact us at Lincs Law. However, if you are defending yourself, there are some common rules you should follow and questions you should be asking if you are subject to a disciplinary for misconduct or gross misconduct allegations:
What is the procedure?
If your employer has their own policy for disciplinary matters, make sure they follow it! In addition, they should abide by the ACAS Code of Practice on Discipline and Grievance which can be found on the ACAS website.
What are the allegations?
Make sure you understand what you are supposed to have done and when you are supposed to have done it. Also, make sure your employer has explained why they believe these are matters of misconduct, ideally referring you to some relevant policy or written instruction.
Do you know how serious the allegations are?
Ask your employer whether you are at risk of dismissal – you need to know what is at stake before you attend any disciplinary meeting. If your employer considers the allegations against you to be gross misconduct, then you are at risk of summary (immediate) dismissal.
Have you prepared your case as well as you can?
Make sure you prepare a written statement for the disciplinary meeting. It is always better to gather your thoughts and be able to take your time drafting your statement at home, rather than try and remember everything you want to say under pressure at the disciplinary meeting. Gather as much evidence and information as you can in support of your version of events. If you don’t have access to the documents you need, ask your employer for them. Also, if you can, get character references and add these to your evidence.
Can you attend the disciplinary meeting?
It is always better to attend and take a colleague or Trade Union Advisor with you. You should also ask to record the meeting to avoid any dispute at a later date about what was said. Make sure you submit your written statement and your evidence to the meeting (and that your employer records your doing so).
Can you appeal?
If you disagree with the outcome of your disciplinary you should appeal. If you don’t appeal, any decision will be part of your personnel record and these decisions cannot be challenged months later. In addition, if you are dismissed and your claim is determined by an Employment Tribunal, they will expect you to have exhausted all internal appeals and can reduce any compensation if you have failed to do so.
Do you need help?
I have helped hundreds of clients defend workplace disciplinary action and pursue their claims at the Employment Tribunal. If I can help you, please call 01522 539501 for a free, no obligation, telephone consultation. Alternatively, for more information about who we are and what we do at Lincs Law Solicitors, please visit our website at www.lincslaw.co.uk.
Specialist Employment Law Solicitor
LincsLaw Solicitors, Lincoln