This article explains, for the benefit of both employees and employers, key requirements for a fair disciplinary hearing.
Before going through with the disciplinary procedure, an investigation must be conducted informing all of the parties in question of the relevant issues.
The employer is then required to arrange an informal meeting with the employee in question to discuss their performance and issues relating to the disciplinary action. The principle purpose of this meeting, aside from analysing performance, is to offer encouragement and set goals for improvement rather than give a warning to the employee - allowing them the chance to improve before action is taken. Importantly, no records can be taken from this meeting, and as such it is worth the employer making a note of when the meeting happened and keeping this on file, as well as giving a copy to the employee.
If the employee's performance is of a notably poor standard, and this is clear and obvious, then the employer may move straight to formal disciplinary procedures. In cases where immediate dismissal is appropriate the employer should consider making a case for gross misconduct.
In line with the goals set in the informal meeting, the employer must now monitor the employee's progress, noting whether it gets better or worse. This can be done by communicating with both (or either) the employee him/herself and their line manager, checking for any positive or negative progression. These check-ups should be accompanied by written, dated reports; brief statements for the sake of keeping records that can be referred to later on in the procedure if need be.
In the event the employee does improve, and meets the goals specified in the informal meeting, they should receive a letter of congratulations and encouragement from the employer.
If after conducting an investigation, arranging an informal meeting and monitoring progress, the employee's performance has not improved and warrants further action, a hearing discussing the nature of this action can be arranged. This may be as severe as dismissal or may be some internal disciplinary sanction.
Following the meeting, the employee must be provided with written confirmation of the action discussed and any relevant future proceedings.
The employee, having already received a warning, may make an appeal. This leads to an appeal hearing where the employer may respond in a set up similar to that of the initial hearing.
As in the initial hearing, full records must be kept of all that goes on in the hearing and made readily available to all relevant parties. Again, the employee must be provided with written confirmation of any decisions reached in this hearing.
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