You may have been the best employee ever until one mistake was made and you found yourself being disciplined by your employer. Or perhaps your boss has had it in for you since day one and has been looking for a way to get rid of you, either as a result of your actions or through invented allegations. Alternatively, it might just be a simple misunderstanding that you can explain away.
Whatever the reasons, having disciplinary action taken against you can be extremely stressful and detrimental to your future if it isn’t handled well. Allegations of misconduct are particularly difficult to refute and can have ongoing ramifications if you end up having to look for alternative employment.
Despite this, many employees attend disciplinary meetings or respond to allegations of misconduct without being aware of the rules or preparing a proper defence. By law, employers must follow certain procedures during the disciplinary process, so it’s vital that you are aware of the rules and know how to present your case in the best possible way.
Find out what the allegations are
Before you attend any disciplinary meetings or hearings, ask for a written copy of any allegations that have been made. You should be told what happened, when the incident(s) happened and how this infringes company policy.
Gete a copy of the company’s disciplinary procedure
Ask for a copy of your employer’s disciplinary procedure. Without this you won’t know what your rights are or whether your employer is following the rules set out in the document.
Prepare a disciplinary statement
Disciplinary meetings can be stressful and you may feel as though you are unable to make the points you want to make, either through nerves or because you are not given the opportunity to do so. It’s worth preparing a detailed statement ahead of the meeting with copies for all those present so that you can refer to your well-considered points and so the panel can take the statement away as a record of your defence.
Attend all disciplinary meetings
However you feel about your employer, it is vital that you attend any disciplinary meetings that are set up. It will help to take someone with you for moral support, to take notes and so they can act as a witness, if necessary, in the future. It is your legal right to take a colleague or trade union representative along to your disciplinary meeting.
Take your own notes
Don’t rely on your employer to supply you with minutes of the meeting. They may never get round to it or they may provide an account that differs from your recollection of what happened. Ask the person who accompanies you to take detailed notes, or do this yourself if you are attending alone. You can also ask for permission to record the meeting.
Appeal if you need to
Even if your employer does not suggest an appeal, you have a right to do so if you disagree with the outcome of your disciplinary meeting. Your appeal should be submitted in writing, containing as much detail as possible with regard to why you disagree. A review should then be undertaken by an independent person within the organisation. If you feel your employer has treated you unfairly during the disciplinary process, it may be worth submitting a claim to the employment tribunal. Before you do so, it may be helpful to speak to your trade union, Citizens Advice or a legal professional.