Disciplinary Meetings – What Happens & Employee Rights in the UK

There are words no one likes to hear at work and ‘disciplinary meeting’ is a phrase that invites feelings of dread.

If you have found yourself in the position of facing a disciplinary meeting, then you need to know your rights. You should also understand how these meetings are conducted. During this investigative process, employees should be treated fairly.

We understand disciplinary meetings can seem very daunting when you are invited to attend. Our guide gives an easy to understand how these interviews should be formatted and carried out.

What is a Disciplinary Meeting?

A disciplinary meeting will be held when some sort of action is required as a result of concerns or complaints your performance or conduct at work.

However, it’s important to understand a disciplinary meeting forms part of an investigation. You should have the nature of the concerns about you explained to you, and be given an opportunity to present your own evidence relating to the situaiont.

A disciplinary might take place as a result of:-

  • Employee conduct.
  • Capability.
  • Long term or frequent absences.
  • Work productivity.
  • Complaint or grievance.

The outcome of a disciplinary meeting will depend on what the issue was that sparked the process. However, below are the main outcomes of attending one:

  • A warning, first or second.
  • Suspension.
  • Demotion.
  • Dismissal.

Why Might a Disciplinary Take Place?

There can be a range of reasons a disciplinary has been called.

Usually, the employee will be aware of the reason, unless they are genuinely innocent. Whatever the reason though, it is so important to attend these meetings. As well as remaining professional, you also have your chance to put your point of view across.

Here are some common reasons for a disciplinary meeting:

Invitation to Disciplinary Meeting

When the correct procedures are followed, the employee should receive an invitation to the disciplinary.

Within the invitation, you should find an outline of the issues that have arisen. For example,  long term sickness. There will also be adequate notice of the meeting to give you and your employer time to prepare.

If there is any evidence to back up the claims then this should also be shared with you. It should be given to you before the meeting so you have time to put your side across.

The meeting should never be a way to try and catch a staff member unawares. The process, by law, must remain fair from start to finish.

How to Prepare for Disciplinary Meetings

Preparing yourself for a disciplinary meeting is key to putting your side across articulately.

Preparation can involve physically gathering evidence from your side, making written records and anything else that will support you.

You may wish to write some questions down that you would like to ask. The meeting should be a two way flow of information with both parties able to voice their side of the situation.

Once you have asked your employer about bringing someone along with support, choose someone you trust. Make sure they will be free on the day in question and that they are clued up on how the process will work.

You will want someone there who is a solid support system so you feel mentally strong. If you decide to go on your own, make sure you are given enough time to make notes.

Our guide on how to beat disciplinary hearings gives detailed tips on preparing to successfully defend yourself.

What will Happen at the Meeting?      

The meeting is a time for everyone to come together and put their version of events on the table.   

It is important that the meeting is a balanced approach with everyone getting their chance to speak. The employer must remember that they are not interrogating their employee, rather they are discovering the truth.

Fairness must be apparent throughout the meeting.

Discussing the Disciplinary Issue

Your employer will outline the reason for the meeting and then will go through the evidence.

There should be no surprises during the meeting and you should be aware of anything presented to you. you should have a chance to ask any questions at this point.

You will also be expected to answer any questions asked.

Your Defence

Any witnesses present will get their turn to speak and you will get time to process the information. You are permitted to take notes and should be allowed time for this.

You will have the chance to put your side across at this point.

Should you need a break or a chat with your support person, this should be granted. Emotions can become heightened during this process and sometimes a cool down period will be needed. You should feel like you’ve had adequate time to showcase your version of events.

At the end of the Disciplinary Hearing

At the end of the disciplinary, everything should have been covered from all angles.

You should feel like you have been listened to fairly and without prejudice. You shouldn’t expect to hear the outcome of the meeting at this point. Everyone will go away, write up the report and then you will receive the outcome.

You will be asked if you have anything you want to add before the meeting ends. At this point, make sure you understand all that has been said and asked. You will receive notification of the outcome shortly after the meeting unless it is complicated.

What Happens After a Disciplinary?

After a disciplinary, you will usually have one of three outcomes to deal with.

  1. No further action is required.
  2. Some sort of formal action may be required such as a warning.
  3. You might be dismissed.

In some cases, another meeting might be necessary. This may be the case if further evidence comes to light or your employer was unable to get to the bottom of things. In most cases though, a decision is reached after one meeting.

Appealing the Outcome of your Meeting

You have every right to appeal the outcome of your meeting.

Should you feel the wrong decision was reached during your disciplinary, you have the opportunity to appeal. Your boss should make you aware of this when they give you the outcome.

You can also appeal if you feel you were treated unfairly during the process. You should aim to formally appeal, in writing, within 5 days of the meeting.

Your employer should give you time to put your appeal into writing. They will then potentially conduct a new investigation and see if anything different comes up. You will then be given the outcome of your appeal. Sometimes, it might be necessary to have someone new carry out the new investigation.

Disciplinary & Grievance Procedures & ACAS Code of Practice

When it comes to conducting disciplinaries, there are strict procedures that must be followed. The process must be fair and transparent.

The ACAS code of practice sets the process to be adhered to during such meetings. This gives all those concerned practical guidance when it comes to attending disciplinaries. These exist to ensure everyone gets a fair meeting, whatever the outcome.

Fair procedures are a must and employers should strive to be as fair as they can. Failure to hold the meeting appropriately can result in tribunal payouts in relation to unfair dismissal being increased by up to 25%.

On the other hand, if the employee fails to follow the steps laid out, it can reduce compensation awarded by 25%. It’s vital to make yourself aware of the ACAS procedures to protect yourself.

Below is an outline of the steps that should be taken:-

1.      A Sound Understanding of the Options Available

Disciplinary meetings will be held due to either misconduct or performance so it is important to understand the angle first.

Sometimes, it may be possible to address the issue without holding a formal meeting. Where this is possible, it is definitely a good option with minimal stress.

Employers should also have a firm understanding of what counts as gross misconduct. Employees may have behaved inappropriately inside or outside of the workplace.

Companies usually have their own policies on such matters.

2.      Preparing For An Investigation

Employers need to make sure the entire process from start to finish is fair. This means preparation is key.

The employee should be notified of a disciplinary meeting in writing. This should set out the reason for the meeting and the possible outcomes. Fair notice should be given between receiving the letter and holding the meeting. This gives everyone the time to prepare for it as best they can.

Employers can follow the ACAS code of practice or their own, either way, they are there to promote fairness.

Should a case go to a tribunal, they will look to see that the appropriate steps have been taken. Communication at all times should be fair, consistent and clear.

3.      Carrying Out The Investigation

This part of the process needs to be carried out fairly, consistently and objectively.

Preferably, it should be conducted by someone impartial, whether that be HR or a manager from another department. Employers should remember that it isn’t a trial, guilt is not trying to be proven. All sides of the situation should be explored, with no bias.

Employees should be given a rough timescale for the investigation to be completed. In more complicated or serious cases, this can be significantly longer. It will largely depend on how much evidence comes to light and how long collating it takes. Data protection should be adhered to at all times.

Anything said during the meeting should remain confidential. Care should also be taken to ensure employers look after employees’ mental health.

Employees will often ask to be accompanied for some support. Employers should try and allow this whenever possible as it is good practice. Reasonable adjustments should be made where necessary, such as to accommodate a disability.

4.      If There Are Witnesses

Witness statements are often key to the outcome of a disciplinary hearing.

Sometimes, having evidence presented by a witness makes a case far smoother to get through. This will usually be done in the form of a signed letter.

They may also be asked to attend a meeting to discuss matters further. Witnesses should be given adequate time to fill in their statements and given satisfactory notice of any necessary meetings.

5.      What Happens After The Investigation

What happens after the investigation will depend largely on how productive it has been.

Sometimes, it may be necessary to revisit certain areas of the investigation. When this happens, the employee should be kept informed and given a new timescale for completion. If the investigation has been completed then a report should be written up and shared with the employee.

At this point, the employer will tell the staff member one of three potential outcomes:

  • No action is required.
  • Informal action is required.
  • Formal action is required.

Formal action will involve more investigations as set out in disciplinary action. Informal action might be extra support or training for the employee.

Generally, no further action will mean things returning to the status quo. However, it might be beneficial to offer support to avoid this situation recurring.


Can I record a disciplinary meeting?

You can record your disciplinary meeting using audio if you so wish. However, you should be transparent about this and let your employer know beforehand. Both parties need to agree for a meeting to be recorded.

How much notice should I get for a disciplinary meeting?

There is no minimum timescale by law that should be given for a disciplinary meeting. However, the time given should be fair and allow everyone ample time to prepare physically and mentally.

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