Disciplinary Hearings – Your Top 7 Steps to Follow
Disciplinary hearings is sadly one of the most common aspects of HR that we get asked about. As you start to grow your business, your team will grow too. This leads to a likely possibility that you may experience some unforeseen challenges with your employees that you will have to deal with. Depending on the severity of the situation, this may also lead to a disciplinaries in the workplace.
It’s important to manage these situations right away to maintain the smooth running’s of your business. This can minimise the possibility of the problem escalating. This is why it is essential to have good HR processes in place to make the disciplinary meeting less problematic.
Investigate, Investigate, Investigate
It is fundamental that you investigate the situation before you consider disciplinary action. Ask yourself the following questions when establishing the facts. What is the bad thing that has happened? When did it happen? Why did it happen? Who did the bad/wrong thing? Were there any witnesses?
Anything verbalised at investigation meetings, and any investigation findings must be documented. These will become important reference documents if formal disciplinary hearings becomes necessary.
Your investigation should avoid opinions. This may be someone else’s opinion on what happened or what they think the employee did. An investigation is not the place for this. The length and depth of the investigation should be appropriate to the issue in question. For example, if your employee has been persistently late to work, only you would need to speak with them about this. However, if you suspect your employee is stealing from you, you are likely to refer to CCTV footage and speak with all staff that were on duty at the time of the incident.
Investigation meetings are informal, and you should not need to provide notice or allow the rights of representation to conduct an investigation meeting.
It is important that you set appropriate expectations with your employees. Any one you have spoken to during the investigation should be aware that it is confidential. This includes any witnesses and the employee in question.
Any employees at the route of the conduct, capability or attendance issue, should be made aware that following your meeting, formal disciplinary hearings may take place.
A disciplinary meeting should never come as a shock to your employee.
Once you have established the facts, you need to invite your employee in to a formal meeting. You must do this in writing.
Your invite letter must include:
- Date, time and location
- Who will be present at the meeting
- Your employee’s right to be accompanied at the meeting
- Details of what they are alleged to have done – this should be clearly set out.
- The potential consequences or potential outcome of the meeting
- Reference to any other documents you may wish to refer to
To ensure that your employee is not surprised about disciplinary hearings, you should inform them beforehand so they are expecting the formal disciplinary action invite letter.
You should always ensure that you provide your employee with reasonable notice ahead of any disciplinary meeting. We suggest a minimum of two clear days’ notice between the day they have received the letter, to the day of the meeting.
This notice is to allow your employee reasonable time to prepare, and arrange to be accompanied if they wish.
It is crucial that you are prepared for the meeting, make sure you book time out of your diary for this. You must also review the information provided in your investigation documents, and the allegations set out in the disciplinary hearings invite letter.
It can be effective to write out the questions you would like to ask your employee. This can make the meeting run smoother. The best questions to ask are open questions, for example ‘tell me…’, ‘describe to me…’, rather than a question that requires a simple yes or no answer.
Furthermore, having appropriate and related questions can help you come to a decision after the meeting.
It can also be effective to plan cover during the meeting to reduce the possibility of being short staffed.
Convening the Meeting
Your hearing must have a clear beginning, middle and end structure.
In the beginning, you should open with introductions and set expectations about what is going to happen.
At the outset of disciplinary hearings, it can also be helpful to cover some general procedural points, to ensure the evidence you have leads to a fair disciplinary procedure. This can include confirming that this is a formal disciplinary meeting, referring to the invite letter.
The middle is the detailed part. You must discuss the issue in question, as set out in the disciplinary letter. This is where your preparation comes in handy. You must ensure that only the issues brought up in the invite letter or any additional paperwork you enclosed with the letter is discussed.
You may be wondering how long the meeting will take? The answer is that it depends…it depends how complex the situation is. It’s important you must leave enough time to allow your employee to respond. This can make you feel like you can come to a decision at the end.
Once you get to this point you should adjourn the hearing.
Adjourning the Meeting
The adjournment is important, as this gives you an opportunity to consider the outcome decision.
Once you reach an outcome decision that you feel confident with that is fair, you can reconvene the disciplinary hearings to deliver your outcome decision, or it may be preferable to confirm your decision in writing.