Disciplinary processes: three top tips

A bit about the speaker…

Emma Rowley originally trained as a Barrister, then as a Solicitor and has been a Tribunal Advocate for Citation for five years now.  Emma’s experience and expertise has been fighting off Employment Law claims for clients up and down the country.


Disciplinary processes are one of the most daunting and critical issues employers face. To avoid getting them wrong, we’ll be sharing three top tips to help you avoid the common mistakes we come across when speaking to clients up and down the country.

Tip #1 – use the correct procedure

There are two factors the tribunal will look at when assessing a disciplinary case. The first is whether you had a fair reason for dismissing the employee – this includes things like conduct, capability, redundancy or legal prohibition. And the second is whether you followed a fair procedure throughout the process.

If you’re a Citation client, you’ll have a disciplinary policy and procedure in your handbook. This’ll incorporate the ACAS Code of Practice on Disciplinary and Grievance Procedures, which you’re legally required to comply with. When taking disciplinary action, it’s important to follow these procedures throughout all levels.

If you don’t, worst case, you could be found guilty of a procedurally unfair dismissal in a tribunal, which could bump any compensatory award up by up to 25%.

Tip #2 – conduct a proper investigation

To do this, you must follow a reasonable and thorough investigation, and gather all relevant evidence before you can make a decision as to whether formal action will be taken.

It’s the employer’s responsibility to take the time to establish any facts of the case, and pay attention in particular to investigating any avenues that might provide evidence in support of the employee’s case.

If you hold an investigation meeting, we’d recommend you invite the employee to attend. Remember to remind employees involved in the investigation to refrain from discussing the allegations against them.

They should, however, be given the opportunity to ask colleagues for statements if they feel it could support their case.

Tip #3 – don’t have the same person handle the entire process

Wherever possible, we recommend your disciplinary process covers three core stages: an investigation hearing, a disciplinary hearing and an appeal hearing.

If possible, the person conducting each stage of the process should be different – this’ll reduce the risk of any unfair dismissal claims. In an ideal world, the investigation, disciplinary and appeal hearing should be conducted by different people of increasing seniority.

If you run a small business, we understand this can be difficult though. At the very least, make sure the person carrying out the investigation does so with an open mind.

Remember, from a warning to a dismissal, every single employee has the right to appeal any form of disciplinary action.

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