It can be very stressful to be the subject of a disciplinary investigation and be invited by your employer to attend a disciplinary hearing.

It is important to prepare carefully prior to attending the disciplinary hearing to give you the best opportunity to fully defend yourself to any allegations put to you in the hope of avoiding any disciplinary sanction such as a first written warning, final written warning or dismissal.

By adequately preparing, if you are subject to any disciplinary sanction or unfair treatment, it is likely to put you in the best position to pursue any employment law claims arising from the process instigated by your employer.

Our top tips include:

      1. Ask for a copy of your employer’s disciplinary procedure and read this carefully so you know what to expect and check that your employer is complying with any steps outlined in the procedure

      2. Read the Acas Code of Practice on Grievance and Disciplinary matters. Your employer should comply with this Code. If the situation leads to you pursuing a claim of unfair dismissal which is successful, an employer’s failure to comply with the Code could lead to an increase of up to 25% of any compensatory award awarded by an Employment Tribunal.

      3. You are entitled to reasonable notice of a disciplinary hearing in accordance with the Acas Code of Practice on Grievance and Disciplinary matters to allow you adequate time to prepare. There might also be a minimum period of notice set out in your employer’s disciplinary procedure. Do you have reasonable grounds to request a postponement of the hearing date and for it to be rearranged? Any request for a postponement and agreement to the postponement should ideally be set out in writing. Reasons for requesting a postponement might include:

        1. Inadequate notice of the disciplinary hearing to allow you to properly prepare and/or take legal advice

        2. Request for further information to allow you to prepare e.g. the detailed allegations and/or evidence collected in support of the allegations, if this has not been provided. Is there evidence that has not been provided to you such as witness statements, interview minutes, emails, text messages, CCTV footage etc that you require sight of that you have not received?

        3. Time needed to request the attendance of a companion such as a colleague or trade union representative or the unavailability of the chosen companion on the date and time arranged for the disciplinary hearing to be held

        4. Ill-health

        5. Requesting reasonable adjustments when conducting the disciplinary hearing due to a disability

        6. Is the person who has been appointed to chair the disciplinary hearing suitable? Usually, the person investigating the allegations and the chair of the disciplinary hearing should be different. Is there any conflict of interest? Have they been involved in the allegations or are they independent with no prior involvement? Should a request be made for an alternative person to be appointed to chair the disciplinary hearing if there is a conflict of interest before attending the hearing?

      4. To assist when attending the hearing, the following points should be considered:

        1. You have the right to be accompanied at the hearing by a companion which can be either a work colleague or trade union representative.

        2. Is it worth preparing notes to assist you at the disciplinary hearing for you to refer to? At the hearing, make sure you outline your arguments. You might want your notes to be in headings to cover the allegations against you, the evidence you have, and your conclusions and response based on this.

        3. Is it worth preparing a written statement to hand in at the disciplinary hearing in addition to answering questions at the hearing?

        4. Is there additional evidence that needs to be obtained to defend yourself? Are there additional witnesses that need to be interviewed? Are there documents you need to provide to your employer to support your arguments? What further investigations does your employer need to carry out before making a decision? Should these points be raised at the disciplinary hearing or prior to the hearing?

        5. If you believe the disciplinary process has not been conducted fairly to date, you should explain this along with your reasoning at the disciplinary hearing.

        6. At the end of the hearing, ask for the likely timescale for completion of the process if a decision is not made and an outcome is not communicated to you at the disciplinary hearing. If further investigations need to be made, you should ask for the timescales for completion of this and whether the disciplinary hearing will be reconvened to allow you to respond to any additional evidence collated before a decision is made.

        7. You should ask for the outcome and reasons to be confirmed to you in writing.

        8. Ask for minutes of each meeting you attend (e.g. disciplinary investigation meeting, disciplinary hearing and appeal hearing, where applicable) to be sent to you following the meeting and check their accuracy and ask for any inaccuracies to be rectified in writing. There should normally be a note taker present taking minutes at each meeting.

      5. If you have been suspended from work whilst the disciplinary investigation is been conducted, ensure that you comply with the terms of the suspension to avoid any further allegations of misconduct being raised. For example, your employer may have written to you setting out the terms of the suspension and may have asked you not to attend work and not to contact colleagues or individuals involved in the investigation. If you are unable to contact key witnesses or obtain documents relevant to your defence, you should ask your employer to do this on your behalf.

      6. If you are not happy with the outcome, ask about the appeal process and ask for the deadline to appeal any disciplinary sanction e.g. warning or dismissal. This should also be set out in the company’s disciplinary procedure. The deadlines are usually short so it is important to ensure you are aware of them and submit any appeal by the deadline.

      7. If you are not happy with the outcome of the process and any appeal outcome, you may wish to pursue a claim in the Employment Tribunal. There are strict deadlines to issue claims.

If you require advice on any disciplinary process or potential claims against your employer, please get in touch with Farleys’ employment law team. We have extensive experience of advising employees on their rights during the disciplinary process as well as representing them during employment tribunals. Contact the team today on 0845 287 0939, email us, or get in touch through the online chat below.