Sometimes things go wrong – or badly wrong - and you may face disciplinary action.
Most of us don’t go to work to cause problems or deliberately break the rules, but sometimes things happen that land us in hot water. Your employer will have a procedure for dealing with unacceptable or improper behaviour and there are minimum standards that must be followed - check out your employers policy which should be freely available. You can find out more about the minimum requirements of a fair process in the Acas’s guide to disciplinary procedures.
Investigation meetings or fact finds are informal meetings to discuss the conduct, issue or incident that's occurred. It's an opportunity to gather the facts, and to look at what has happened and establish whether formal disciplinary action is required. It may include presenting you with evidence, or simply seeking your side of the story.
Having an investigatory meeting does not mean that you will be called to a formal disciplinary meeting. Once the facts have been gathered, a decision will be made on the way forward. The outcome could range from no action or informal action, to a formal disciplinary meeting.
Sometimes a period of suspension is required, but this should be to facilitate a thorough and fair investigation, or where there is significant risk to you, other employees, or the business. Suspension is not a disciplinary sanction, and it should not be used as a punishment or to pre-judge the outcome of any investigations.
If you find yourself suspended, you will be told whether this is on full pay (you contract of employment must contain reference to this if your employer is withholding pay), and any terms you need to abide by such as non-contact with other colleagues.
Periods of suspension should be as brief as possible, and investigations should be carried out without unreasonable delay.
Misconduct or gross misconduct
Misconduct is usually where there is inappropriate behaviours or actions that break workplace rules. Some examples include:
- Refusal to do work, also known as insubordination
- Being absent without permission or good reason
- Failure to follow procedures or management instructions
- Lack of due care and attention
- Repeated mistakes, not related to ability or skill to do your job
- Repeated lateness without good reason
Some acts count as gross misconduct or serious misconduct because they are very serious or have very serious effects. Some examples include:
- Fraud & theft
- Violence or threats of violence
- Serious lack of care or gross negligence (for example a serious breach of health & safety duties)
- Serious insubordination
- Acts of discrimination
- Call avoidance
What is seen as gross misconduct can depend on how past cases have been handled, and the type of role and responsibilities you have. Repeated misconduct will often result in a similar level of severity as acts of gross misconduct.
You'll be given written notice of an disciplinary meeting, and you'll be given the option to organise union support too. The invite letter should give you all the information you need to understand the allegation that is being made, the evidence to be considered, the time, date and location of the meeting, and what the potential outcomes could be.
The appointed hearing manager should be sufficiently independent, and with sufficient seniority in order to make a decision and any appeals should be heard by someone who has not been involved in the process.
We’ll help you prepare for any formal hearings and attend meetings with you to ensure a fair process and that you are able to put your side of things across to the hearing manager. When it comes to informal meetings, you don't have the same legal right to representation, but some employers may accommodate a request for accompaniment if there is someone freely available to attend with you.
Appeals & dismissal
If you're unhappy with the outcome of a disciplinary, you will be given the right to appeal the decision. We have prepared an appeal letter template which will help you to think through the points of unfairness you're wishing to raise and to structure your appeal arguments.
If you've been dismissed and you think the decision was unfair, we've got a dismissal appeal letter template tailored to challenging dismissals. It will help you to think about the points of unfairness you're wishing to raise and to structure your appeal arguments.
If you need further help, talk with your local rep or contact your local Accord officer.