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Disciplinary Procedures

Fact sheet 2

Introduction The aims of the Disciplinary Procedure and the associated Disciplinary Rules are to set out the standards of conduct expected of all staff and to provide a framework within which managers can work with employees to maintain satisfactory standards of conduct and to encourage improvement where necessary.

General principles The disciplinary procedure: is intended to create strong incentives for Line Managers to attempt, in the first instance, to

resolve problems and improve conduct through informal discussions between the employee and their manager is intended to ensure that any disciplinary matter is dealt with fairly and that steps are taken to

establish the facts and to give employees the opportunity to respond before taking any formal action is a non contractual procedure and does not form part of the Employment Agreement [has been implemented following consultation with employees] (ACAS recommended) complies with the ACAS Code of Practice Dismissal would not normally be an appropriate penalty for a first act of misconduct, unless the employee has not completed their probationary period or the act amounts to gross misconduct. Employees, who have difficulty at any stage of the procedure because of a disability, should discuss the situation with their Line Manager or the Operations Manager as soon as possible.

The scope of this procedure The procedure applies to all employees regardless of length of service. It does not apply to agency workers or selfemployed contractors. This procedure does not apply where employment is terminated by reason of redundancy or incapability arising from ill-health and it does not apply to cases involving poor performance. Where any deficiencies in performance on the part of the employee arise from a lack of aptitude or skill, rather than any wilful or negligent failure to carry out his/her duties, the Capability Procedure* should be used. In cases involving ill-health or redundancy reference should be made to our Absence Policy or our Redundancy Procedure. *Capability Procedure is the Underperformance/’Getting back on Track’ process

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Disciplinary Procedures Informal discussions Whenever there is cause for concern about an employee’s conduct, these should be raised by the Line Manager and discussed without undue delay and in private. This provides an opportunity for the Line Manager to explain the standard of conduct expected without entering into this procedure. In the majority of cases such discussions will make formal disciplinary action under this procedure unnecessary. Where appropriate, a note of any such informal discussions may be placed on the employee’s personnel file but will be ignored for the purposes of any future hearings. In some cases at this informal discussion stage a verbal warning may be given, which will not form part of the employee’s disciplinary records. Progression to taking formal steps under this procedure will result if the matter is not resolved following informal discussions, or if the alleged misconduct is sufficiently serious, such that a single instance may warrant immediate referral to the formal Disciplinary Procedure.

Investigations  If normal management processes have not brought about the required changes in conduct, the matter may need to be referred to this formal Disciplinary Procedure. In order to determine whether the instigation of the formal procedure is appropriate it will normally be necessary to carry out an investigation of the alleged misconduct  The purpose of an investigation is for the company to establish a fair and balanced view of the facts relating to any disciplinary allegations against employees, before deciding whether to proceed with a disciplinary hearing. The amount of investigation required will depend on the nature of the allegations and will vary from case to case. It may involve interviewing and taking statements from employees and any witnesses, and/or reviewing relevant documents. The Company will normally appoint the Operations Manager (designated manager) as Investigating Officer to carry out the investigation1 1

In cases where the Operations Manager is also the Line Manager, an alternative Investigating Officer will be appointed by the Managing Director.

 Investigative interviews are solely for the purpose of fact-finding and no decision on disciplinary action will be taken until after a disciplinary hearing has been held  Employees do not normally have the right to bring a companion to an investigative interview. However, the company may allow a companion if it helps employees to overcome any disability, or any difficulty in understanding English  Employees must co-operate fully and promptly in any investigation. This will include informing the company of the names of any relevant witnesses, disclosing any relevant documents and attending investigative interviews if required

Suspension In cases where the employee’s continued presence in the office would hinder an investigation the company may suspend the employee from work. The suspension will be for no longer than is necessary to investigate the allegations and arrangements will be confirmed to the employee in writing. While suspended employees should not visit company premises or contact any clients, customers, suppliers, contractors or employees, unless they have been authorised to do so. Suspension of this kind is not a disciplinary action or penalty and does not imply that any decision has already been made about allegations. Salary will continue to be paid during any period of suspension. Following any investigation, if the company considers that there are grounds for disciplinary action; in most cases the process on the following page would ordinarily be followed.

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The Three Steps 1. Notification of a disciplinary hearing Following any investigation, if the company considers there are grounds for disciplinary action, the employee will be required to attend a disciplinary hearing. The company will inform the employee in writing of the allegations against them, the basis for those allegations, and what the likely range of outcomes will be if the conclusion is reached after the hearing that the allegations are true. The company will also include the following where appropriate:  a summary of relevant information gathered during the investigation  a copy of any relevant documents which will be used at the disciplinary hearing  a copy of any relevant witness statements, except where a witness's identity is to

be kept confidential, in which case as much information as possible will be given while maintaining confidentiality Written notice of the date, time and place of the disciplinary hearing will be given. The hearing will be held as soon as reasonably practicable, but employees will be given a reasonable amount of time, usually two to seven days, to prepare their case based on the information provided. If an employee or their companion cannot attend the hearing they should advise the company of this fact immediately and an alternative time will be arranged. Failure to attend the hearing, without good reason may be treated as misconduct in itself. If the employee fails to attend without good reason, or is persistently unable to do so (for example for health reasons); the company may have to take a decision based on the available evidence.

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2. Right to be accompanied Employees may be accompanied at any disciplinary hearing or appeal hearing under this procedure by a companion. The companion may be either a trade union official or a fellow worker. The name of the chosen companion must be disclosed to the company in good time before the hearing. Acting as a companion is voluntary and colleagues are under no obligation to do so. Employees will be allowed time off from duties without loss of pay to attend the meeting. If the choice of companion is unreasonable the company may ask for an alternative to be chosen, for example if:  in the company’s opinion, the chosen companion may have a conflict of interest

or may prejudice the hearing; or  the chosen companion works at another site and someone reasonably suitable is available at the employees workplace, or  the chosen companion is unavailable at the time a hearing is scheduled and will not be available for more than five working days

3. Right of appeal against disciplinary action After the disciplinary hearing, the company will advise the employee in writing of the decision reached and any disciplinary sanctions to be imposed; at this time the employee will also be advised of their right to appeal against the decision. If the employee feels that disciplinary action taken against them is wrong or unjust they should appeal in writing, stating their full grounds of appeal, within 5 working days of the date on which they were informed of the decision. The employee has the right to be accompanied by a work colleague or trade union representative at an appeal hearing. If an employee appeals against dismissal, the date on which dismissal takes effect will not be delayed pending the outcome of the appeal. However, if the appeal is successful and reinstatement is the preferred outcome, the employee will be reinstated with no loss of continuity or pay.


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Disciplinary Procedures Disciplinary hearings The hearing will be chaired by the Line Manager; also present will be the Investigating Officer. At the disciplinary hearing the allegations against the employee will be presented and the evidence that has been gathered. The employee will be able to respond and present any evidence of their own. The employee’s representative may make representations to the company and ask questions, but should not answer questions on behalf of the employee. Either party may ask relevant witnesses to appear at the hearing, provided sufficient advance notice to arrange their attendance is provided. Both parties will be given the opportunity to respond to any information given by a witness however; employees will not normally be permitted to cross-examine witnesses unless, in exceptional circumstances, the company decides that a fair hearing could not be held otherwise. The disciplinary hearing may be adjourned at any time if it is necessary to carry out further investigations such as re-interviewing witnesses in the light of any new points raised at the hearing. Reasonable opportunity will be given to all parties to consider any new information obtained before the hearing is reconvened. The company will inform the employee in writing of its decision and reasons for it, usually within 7 working days of the disciplinary hearing.

Disciplinary penalties The usual penalties for misconduct are set out below. No penalty should be imposed without a hearing. The company aims to treat all employees fairly and consistently, and a penalty imposed on another employee for similar misconduct will usually be taken into account but should not be treated as a precedent. Each case will be assessed on its own merits. Written warnings will normally remain in force for a period of not more than 12 months.

First written warning A first written warning must be authorised by the Operations Manager. It will usually be appropriate for a first act of misconduct where there are no other active written disciplinary warnings on record.

Final written warning

A final written warning must be authorised by the Operations Manager2. It will usually be appropriate for misconduct:  where there is already an active written warning on record; or  that the company considers sufficiently serious to warrant a final written warning even though there are no other active warnings on file 2

In cases where the Operations Manager is also the Line Manager, the penalty would be authorised by the Managing Director.

Dismissal Unless the circumstances are exceptional, for example, gross misconduct, dismissal should not be imposed as a penalty without first having given at least one written warning. Dismissal must be authorised by the Chairman (designated senior manager). It will usually only be appropriate for:  any misconduct during an employee’s probationary period;  further misconduct where there is an active final written warning on record ; or  any gross misconduct regardless of whether there are active warnings record. Gross misconduct will usually result in immediate dismissal without notice or payment in lieu of notice (summary dismissal)  Where the employee’s misconduct is not such as to constitute gross misconduct, but has, nevertheless, led to a fundamental breakdown of mutual trust and confidence such that it would be impossible or impractical to continue his/her employment, the company may determine at the conclusion of the hearing that the employee should be dismissed. In such case, subject to the outcome of any appeal, the employee will dismissed with due notice. Such a case would be exceptional

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Disciplinary Procedures Alternatives to dismissal In some cases the company may at its discretion consider alternatives to dismissal. These must be authorised by the Chairman and will usually be accompanied by a final written warning. Examples include: a period of suspension without pay loss of seniority reduction in pay loss of future pay increment or bonus

Effect of a warning Written warnings will set out the nature of the misconduct, the change in behaviour required, the period for which the warning will remain active, and the likely consequences of further misconduct in that active period. A first written warning will usually remain active for six months and a final written warning will usually remain active for 12 months. In exceptional cases verging on gross misconduct a final written warning may state that it will remain active indefinitely. The employee’s conduct may be reviewed at the end of a warning's active period and if their conduct has not improved sufficiently the company has the option to decide to extend the active period or take further disciplinary action. After the active period, the warning will remain permanently on an employees’ personnel file but will be disregarded in deciding the outcome of future disciplinary proceedings.

Appeal hearing Employees have the right to appeal against any disciplinary sanction. Following receipt of a letter of appeal from an employee the company will give written notice of the date, time and place of the appeal hearing. This will normally be two to seven days after receipt of the written notice. The appeal hearing may be a complete re-hearing of the matter or it may be a review of the fairness of the original decision in the light of the procedure that was followed and any new information that may have come to light. This will be at the company’s discretion depending on the circumstances of the case. In any event the appeal will be dealt with as impartially as possible. Normally the appeal hearing will be conducted impartially by the Managing Director unless he has been previously involved in the case. The Investigating Officer or the manager who conducted the disciplinary hearing will also usually be present. Employees may bring a work colleague or Trade Union Representative with them to the appeal hearing. If any new matters are raised in the appeal process, the company may need to carry out further investigation. If any new information comes to light both parties will be provided with a summary including, where appropriate, copies of additional relevant documents and witness statements. All parties will have a reasonable opportunity to consider this information before the hearing. Following the appeal hearing the company may: confirm the original decision; or revoke the original decision; or substitute a different penalty The company will inform the employee in writing of its final decision as soon as possible, usually within seven working days of the appeal hearing. There will be no further right of appeal.

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Disciplinary Procedures Confidentiality The company’s aim is to deal with disciplinary matters sensitively and with due respect for the privacy of any individuals involved. All employees must treat as confidential any information communicated to them in connection with an investigation or disciplinary matter. Anyone attending any meetings or hearings conducted under this procedure (including witnesses) must not make electronic recordings of the proceedings. Employees will normally be advised of the names of any witnesses whose evidence is relevant to disciplinary proceedings against them, unless the company believes that a witness's identity should remain confidential.

Criminal charges Where an employee’s conduct is the subject of a criminal investigation, charge or conviction, the company will investigate the facts before deciding whether to take formal disciplinary action. The company will not usually wait for the outcome of any prosecution before deciding what action, if any, to take. Where employees are unable or have been advised not to attend a disciplinary hearing or say anything about a pending criminal matter, the company may have to take a decision based on the available evidence. A criminal investigation, charge or conviction relating to an employee’s conduct outside work may be treated as a disciplinary matter if it is considered that it is relevant to their employment.

Fair dismissal When an employer dismisses an employee, going through the relevant minimum procedure will not necessarily be sufficient to ensure that the dismissal is fair under the unfair dismissal legislation. The dismissal must also be fundamentally fair. The ACAS Code of Practice provides detailed guidance in this area and its recommendations should be followed wherever possible.

Exemptions Under exceptional circumstances, either party may be exempted from following this procedure; for example, when either party is violent, abusive or behaves in an unacceptable way or when factors beyond the control of either party make it effectively impossible for the procedure to be followed.

Diversity The company’s Diversity Policy (Section Seven) highlights its commitment not to discriminate in its employment of staff and to provide a working environment free from sexual, racial or any other form of harassment. Therefore the company shall not tolerate any form of discrimination or harassment by staff against work colleagues. Harassment in the workplace is behaviour that is both unwelcome and offensive to others. It fails to respect their rights and feelings. It is emphasised that any alleged act of discrimination or harassment by either management or staff against colleagues will lead to the Disciplinary Procedure being invoked and in extreme circumstances may constitute gross misconduct. If any employee feels that they are receiving discriminatory treatment or are being harassed they should contact their Line Manager or another member of the management team and the complaint will be investigated.

General advice For more general advice on employment relations matters, please contact the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS). They provide impartial information, help and guidance on employment matters. They also resolve disputes between employers and their workforces. Phone 08457 47 47 47 or visit the ACAS website (www.acas.org.uk).

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Disciplinary Procedures fact sheet