How to conduct a disciplinary hearing?

Disciplinary hearing

A disciplinary procedure can no doubt be a stressful one which is why you should have all the facts. It’s important that you’re aware of what actions to take, what your rights are as an employer and what the employee’s rights are. Before taking any disciplinary action, there are certain legal steps you need to be aware of.

What is a disciplinary hearing?

A disciplinary hearing, otherwise known as a ‘disciplinary meeting’ is a discussion held between an employer and an employee. This is the opportunity where you can discuss the allegation(s) with evidence and listen to the employee.

You should note that before a disciplinary hearing, you should conduct a thorough investigation to gather all of your facts because most unfair dismissal claims fall down to a poor investigation.

Preparing for a disciplinary hearing – the best approach to take?

First of all, you need to invite your employee to the disciplinary hearing in writing. Your disciplinary hearing letter should include details of the investigation you have already conducted. This allows your employee to approach a representative and this might be a work colleague or a trade union representative.

The period of time from sending the invite to the actual disciplinary hearing tends to be 24-48 hours. This gives your employee enough time to confirm if they can or can’t attend the disciplinary hearing.

What happens during the disciplinary procedure?

During the hearing, you should address any housekeeping rules like comfort breaks and the itinerary of the meeting. It’s important you have a minute-taker to note down what’s discussed in the meeting, or you could even record the meeting if everyone is happy with that. Having accurate disciplinary hearing minutes means everything is documented, and you’ll have a handy record to refer back to during an appeal or tribunal (if you ever need to).

Then, set out the allegation(s) and ask your employee for their response or to answer any questions about the allegation(s). If you’re unsure of their answer, ask them to go into more detail so you’re definitely clear on what they’re trying to say. At the end of the meeting, you should ask your employee or their representative if they have anything they’d like to say before adjourning the meeting.

Following a fair disciplinary procedure is a must

Sometimes, informal discussions can lead to a resolution – it can be worth trying this first. However, we understand it’s not always possible to avoid a disciplinary hearing. So, if formal disciplinary action is needed, it’s really important to do everything by the book so you can avoid carrying out an unfair investigation.

The fairness of your disciplinary procedure could be the decisive factor in a tribunal hearing. If a tribunal rules that your procedure wasn’t carried out fairly then, unfortunately for you, it’s likely to be costly.

So, here are a few tips to help you carry out your disciplinary procedure fairly:

  • After carrying out a thorough investigation, write to the employee to inform them of your decision to proceed with the disciplinary hearing.
  • Include clear and detailed information about any alleged misconduct or performance issues.
  • Inform the employee in good time, giving them a chance to prepare for the hearing and arrange any representation if they want to be accompanied at the disciplinary hearing.

Check out our advice for disciplinary procedures here.

Do the same rules apply to younger employees?

All employees, not just young ones, have the right to have a representative at a disciplinary hearing by a fellow employee or an accredited trade union official.

However, we would always advise our clients to act in a reasonable manner. If the employee is immature or has other challenges, we would recommend that they can bring along whoever they wish, within reason. Hopefully, a junior employee will bring along a parent or guardian – in our experience, an adult voice of reason can help in this situation. If the disciplinary hearing could have an impact on an employee’s professional career, they should be allowed to be accompanied by a legal representative if they wish.

When it comes to holding disciplinary hearings, following a fair and lawful process is a must. So, to help you get it right, Cathy Topp, one of our HR & Employment Law Advisors, has taken to the camera to talk you through everything you need to know.

Our HR and Employment Law expert support

Conducting a disciplinary hearing may seem stressful, but we’re here to help make the process as smooth as possible for you.

If you’re a client and you’ve got any questions about anything we’ve covered, remember, our experts are here for you 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, with our advice line.

And if you’re not yet a client, you can contact the team on 0345 844 1111 or

We’ve put together this FREE disciplinary hearing guide, which covers the right steps to take when you’re holding a disciplinary, tips based on the most common questions we get on our advice line and mistakes that might trip you up and how best to avoid them. Why not check out some of our other online resources below and broaden your knowledge on all things disciplinary hearings?

Common disciplinary procedure mistakes

What happens if an employee doesn’t turn up for a disciplinary meeting?

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