Employment Law Advice on Workplace Disciplinary Procedures

02 March 2017

In most circumstances employers in England & Wales should have a disciplinary procedure in place. This procedure should be followed correctly if your employer wishes to start formal disciplinary action against you. A failure to follow procedure may result in a claim for unfair dismissal.

Duties of Your Employer

Your employer should provide you with a written copy of their disciplinary procedure, ideally when you start your employment, and when you are formally notified of their intention to take disciplinary action.

Within the disciplinary procedure, the following information should be confirmed:

  1. What performance and behaviour might lead to disciplinary action
  2. What action your employer may take if you are found to have breached the policy
  3. What steps will be taken during the disciplinary process

ACAS Code of Practice

All disciplinary procedures should ideally follow the ACAS Code of Practice.
Under the ACAS Code of Practice, your employer has a duty to carry out a full investigation into potential disciplinary matters, without unreasonable delay, to establish the facts of the case.

In some cases, there will initially be an investigatory stage, which usually includes a meeting with the employee to help establish the facts. Following this meeting, the employer may decide no further action should be taken, or may decide to proceed to a full disciplinary hearing.

If your employer does decide to proceed to a disciplinary hearing, and is acting in accordance with the ACAS Code of Practice, then the following steps will be taken:

  1. Your employer should first of all notify you in writing about the alleged misconduct or poor performance. This letter should also confirm the possible consequences if findings are made, as well as the details of the time and venue for the disciplinary hearing. The meeting should be held without delay, but should also allow you time to prepare your case. 
  2. You should be provided with any written evidence your employer intends to rely on when being notified of the disciplinary action.
  3. You should be given the right to be accompanied at the meeting, whether by a colleague or a union representative.
  4. At the meeting, you should be given the opportunity to set out your position and respond to the allegations made. You should also be given the opportunity to ask questions, provide evidence and call relevant witnesses. You should ideally provide any evidence you intend to rely on in advance of the hearing.
  5. After the meeting, you should be notified in writing of the outcome of the hearing, with reasons for the decision given to you. In less serious circumstances, you may receive a written warning, or a final written warning if you have been warned before. In more serious circumstances your employer may decide to dismiss you.
  6. After being notified of the outcome of the disciplinary hearing, you should be given the right to appeal. When submitting an appeal, you should notify your employer in writing, setting out the grounds for appeal.
  7. Once your appeal has been submitted, it should be allocated wherever possible to a manager who has not previously been involved in the case. You will again be notified in writing of the time and venue for the hearing, and will be given the right to be accompanied.
  8. The appeal hearing will follow a similar process to the disciplinary hearing, and again you should be notified in writing of the outcome. The decision of the appeal hearing is final, and if you wish to pursue the matter further, you will have to issue a claim at the Employment Tribunal or County Court.

Whilst your employer is not legally obliged to follow the ACAS Code, if they don’t and you were to go to a Tribunal and be successful in your claim, then you may receive a higher amount of compensation.

If it can be shown that a fair procedure has not been followed, then your dismissal will be unfair. If you believe your employer has failed to follow the correct disciplinary procedure, meaning you may have a claim for unfair dismissal, then you should get specialist legal advice.

At Co-op Legal Services a specialist Employment Solicitor can review your dismissal and provide you with a detailed written report on the prospects of making a successful claim.

We will agree a fixed fee with you upfront before any work starts, and once we have provided you with a written quote for the agreed work to be done, that price will not change.

More articles