Employer’s Case Study – Disciplinary Procedure

Q: A senior employee has made a series of embarrassing and damaging mistakes in their work. The company is unclear whether it has grounds for discipline or dismissal.

  • It is essential not to make a hurried decision. Check the contract for this particular employee and the employee handbook for a disciplinary procedure.
  • In the absence of a specific procedure in the contract or handbook, the employer and the employee must follow the ACAS Code of Practice, namely:-
    • The employer should carry out the necessary investigations to establish the facts of the case.
    • The employer should write to the employee, setting out the problems with the work and inviting them to a meeting to discuss the issues.
    • In that letter, the employer must inform the employee that they have a right to be accompanied at the meeting, either by a colleague or a trade union representative. The employer should also enclose copies of any documentary evidence.
    • The meeting must take place without unreasonable delay but must also give to the employee, sufficient time to prepare their case.
    • The employer should keep an open-mind at the meeting. The Tribunal will look very unfavourably on an employer who jumps through the hoops of the disciplinary process whilst having a pre-judged outcome already in mind.
    • After the meeting, the employer should write to the employee, informing them of the decision that has been made. The employer should also inform the employee that they are entitled to appeal the decision and give them a time limit within which to do so (usually 5-7 days).
    • If the employee wishes to appeal, they should notify the employer of this fact and of the grounds of appeal, without unreasonable delay.
    • The employer must then schedule a further meeting which should be held by a different manager (more senior than the first if possible) and the executive should again be given the opportunity to be accompanied by a colleague or a trade union representative.
    • Within a reasonable time after the meeting, the employer should write to the employee and inform them of their final decision with regard to the appeal.
    • The employee has no further right of appeal.

Failure by either party to follow at least the procedure set out above, can result in an increase or a decrease in any compensation awarded, depending upon which party failed to follow the procedure, of up to 25%.