How to deal with serious disciplinary matters

Guest Blog by Jane Hallas, Employment Law Principal and Head of Charity Clients at Ellis Whittam

Managers in the Charity Sector may have to deal with potential serious disciplinary issues from time to time. This practical guide sets out some important steps to follow if a serious misconduct issue arises, where the employee may be dismissed.

Step 1 – Check the Disciplinary Procedure

First of all check your Disciplinary Procedure as this will clarify whether the potential breach is classed as gross misconduct. It will also clarify the procedure to be followed and if employees have a right to be accompanied to investigation meetings and any timescales to follow.  Regardless of the procedure all serious disciplinary matters should follow the steps below as a minimum.

Step 2 – Investigate

As soon as you are aware of the potential issues, carry out an initial investigation to try and determine the facts.  This will normally involve interviewing individual employees who may have witnessed the incident or have some knowledge of the allegation. Inform them that the process is confidential but the minutes of their meeting will be disclosed if the matter proceeds to disciplinary action. Ideally, the investigation minutes should be typed and signed by each employee as a true record. Consider whether to suspend the accused employee; this will only be necessary if they could hinder the investigation or you need to protect the Charity. Suspension is normally on full pay.  Gather any relevant documentary evidence. Finally, question the employee who is alleged to be at fault.  Determine whether there is sufficient evidence of a case to answer. Try to be impartial: look for evidence that points to them not being guilty as much as for evidence that points to guilt.

Step 3 – Invitation to Disciplinary Hearing

If there is sufficient evidence pointing to culpability, appoint a new person to deal with the disciplinary matter and send an invitation letter with 48 hours notice of the hearing and ensure that it includes:

  1. a) details of the allegations, cross referencing to the appropriate part of the disciplinary procedure and other relevant procedure (include copies);
  2. b) evidence of the misconduct (including witness statements and documentary evidence);
  3. c) confirmation of the right to be accompanied by a Trade Union Representative or colleague;
  4. d) details of the possible outcome (this will normally be summary dismissal for allegations of gross misconduct).

Step 4 – Conduct the Disciplinary Hearing

The meeting should be conducted by somebody senior to the employee who was not involved in the investigation.  During the disciplinary hearing, the Disciplinary Manager  should discuss all the evidence with the employee to enable them  to determine what they believe happened.   When deciding the level of sanction, consider the employee’s length of service, how any similar cases have been dealt with in the past and any mitigating circumstances.

Confirm the decision in writing and offer a right of appeal if a disciplinary sanction is issued. Gross misconduct will normally mean no notice or pay in lieu of notice is given.

Step 4 – Appeal

If the employee appeals against the disciplinary outcome, a more senior person will normally conduct the appeal hearing.   The appeal should focus on the grounds of appeal and any procedural shortcomings in the earlier steps to ensure they are rectified.

For a free initial advice call – members please contact  0845 226 8393, ask for the Partnerships Legal Team and quote your ACEVO membership number

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