Before you start
Review any disciplinary arrangements set out in your HR policies and Employment contracts. This guide summarises the minimum standards, but if your own arrangements are more generous then those should be followed.
Make sure you have carried out a comprehensive investigation first. For more information, read Disciplinary process.
Confirm the hearing arrangements
In cases of misconduct, consider writing an iInvitation letter to a disciplinary hearing for misconduct to the accused employee to arrange the hearing, confirm the allegations and witnesses and explain the possible consequences of their conduct (including dismissal if dismissal is an option). In cases of poor performance, you can use an Invitation letter to a poor performance hearing. In either case, make sure you include enough detail so they can prepare their response properly and explain that they can bring a companion to the hearing.
Enclose a copy of your Disciplinary policy and any written evidence of the relevant allegations—including any investigation reports, relevant documents, emails and witness statements.
Give the employee a reasonable amount of time (eg at least 5 working days) to prepare for the hearing after they’ve received the letter.
Before the hearing, make sure both sides know what witnesses the other is going to call. You can use written witness information or statements at the hearing, but the Acas code of practice on disciplinary and grievance procedures says employees should be given the opportunity to call witnesses in person.
All employees have the right to be accompanied to disciplinary and grievance hearings and appeals by a fellow worker or trade union representative if they reasonably request this. When you write to confirm meeting arrangements, you should notify your employee in the letter of their right to be accompanied. The right to a companion does not apply to investigatory meetings, although you may choose to allow companions to also attend investigatory meetings.
The companion can be a trade union representative even if the employee is not a union member or you, as the employer, don’t have a link with that union. The companion can also be another worker (even if not a permanent employee). Nobody has to be a companion if they don’t want to be. Normally, an employee is not allowed to bring a lawyer as a companion. There are exceptions to this (eg if the employee is disabled or if the hearing may have an effect beyond the employee’s current job). You can ask the employee to confirm in advance who they intend to bring as their companion so that you can check that it’s reasonable. Only reject a proposed companion for a good reason.
The companion’s role at the meeting is to act on behalf of the employee where necessary (eg to put forward their case, sum up for them and answer views expressed at the hearing). You should allow the companion to consult privately with the employee during the meeting. Companions cannot answer questions directed to the employee or interfere with another person’s contribution to the hearing.
Make sure everyone can attend
If the employee or their companion can’t attend, rearrange the hearing. If they keep missing the hearing without a good reason, you can reach a decision without them, based on the evidence available.
If they can’t make it due to health issues, consider whether this constitutes a disability. If so, you may need to change how or where the hearing takes place (eg by allowing written evidence or holding the hearing at their home) in order to avoid falling foul of equality and anti-discrimination laws.
Hold the hearing
At the hearing, you should have a chairperson, someone from the employer to take notes, the employee, their companion and ideally a HR staff member to make sure the right procedures are followed.
The chairperson should begin by introducing everyone in the room, including themselves, and then explain what the allegations are and go through the evidence.
The employee should be allowed to answer the case and set out their own. They should be able to question the evidence against them, present evidence of their own and call witnesses of their own.
However, the employee does is not entitled to question witnesses directly save in exceptional cases. Normally, that’s better conducted by the chairperson. But the employee must be allowed to make points about witness evidence against them.
After the hearing, you should reach a decision and communicate it to the employee in writing. If you’re issuing a disciplinary warning or taking no further action, you can do this using a Disciplinary outcome letter for misconduct or a Poor performance outcome letter. If you’ve decided to dismiss the employee you can use a Dismissal letter for misconduct or a Dismissal letter for poor performance, but make sure your dismissal complies with the law.
It’s important to inform employees’ about their right to appeal when you communicate your decision to them.
Data protection issues
When running a disciplinary hearing, ensure you process (eg use and store) employee personal data (ie information about individuals from which they may be identified) fairly and legally. You should tell employees which types of data you might collect about them and what you do with it This can be done using, for example, an Employee privacy notice or a fair processing statement' (ie a statement describing how you collect, use, retain and disclose personal information. For more information, read Data protection and Data protection and employees.