How to be Successful at a Disciplinary Hearing – Tips for Employees

Facing a disciplinary hearing is a stressful and uncertain situation. If you want to beat the allegations against you and offer an effective defence, it is vital to prepare thoroughly and understand your employment rights.

A calm, considered, and well prepared approach will help you have the best chance of a successful outcome.

Our guide will help you understand relevant UK employment laws, as well as providing valuable hints and tips to get organised and beat a disciplinary hearing!

Understanding Disciplinary Hearings

When a formal grievance is raised in the workplace, an investigation should commence to determine the facts relating to the issue which has been raised. The findings of an investigation may lead to a disciplinary hearing if the facts support further action being taken in relation to the matter.

Ideally, a disciplinary hearing should happen promptly once the investigation concludes.

Employers must follow a fair process at all times when conducting disciplinary procedures. This means following ACAS guidelines and its Code of Practice on disciplinary and grievance procedures. Whilst it is not a legal obligation for employers to follow these guidelines, failing to do so can result in employment tribunal awards being uplifted by up to 25%.

A disciplinary hearing often indicates that your manager needs to address concerns about your work performance or behaviour. The reasons behind your disciplinary hearing should be conveyed to you quickly and clearly. This allows you time to prepare for the meeting. Employees should always be informed of the reasons behind formal discipinary proceedings.

Further reading: ACAS Code of Practice on Disciplinary and Grievance Procedures.

Common Reasons for Disciplinary Meetings

There can be several reasons a disciplinary hearing has been arranged. However, they usually fall under a select few categories. These include an employee’s conduct, capability, overall performance and an excess number of absences.

  • Performance Review: If there are concerns about your overall performance, your manager may initiate a review. The review might include your ability to meet deadlines, the quality of your work, how you adapt to technological changes, and your time management.
  • Poor Attendance: If your attendance falls below the acceptable rate due to ongoing illness, medical conditions, or unexplained absences, you might face a disciplinary hearing.
  • Breach of Contract: If an employee violates a term of their contract such as breaching client confidentiality, misusing work equipment, or constant lateness, a disciplinary hearing may be called.
  • Violating Workplace Rules: Failure to follow workplace rules and procedures can have serious consequences. This includes allegations of workplace bullying, harassment, and discrimination.
  • Breaching Company Policy: Company policies, such as GDPR, health and safety, and drugs and alcohol, must be followed. Non compliance can lead to a disciplinary meeting.
  • Long Term Illness: If a long term illness affects an employee’s role, they may need to attend a capability meeting to review their current role and potential alternate positions.
  • Gross Misconduct: Serious conduct issues, like sexual harassment, theft, and unprofessional behaviour, can trigger a disciplinary hearing.

See Also: Workplace Bullying – unfair disciplinary procedures can be a form of bullying at work. If you feel this is relevant to your situation, our article will help you understand what

Ensure You Are Aware of What the Allegations Against You Are

Employers must clearly communicate with you about the nature of the allegations you’ll be defending in the disciplinary.

The allegations, and the evidence that will be relied upon to support them should be provided to you well in advance of your disciplinary hearing. No new evidence or grievances should be brought forward without advance notification. This will allow you to prepare a defence, and gather your own evidence if necessary.

You should also be provided the time and date of the hearing. If you feel your employer is not following a proper procedure, keep a timeline of events. This may help if you need to appeal the outcome of your hearing.

How to Prepare for a Disciplinary Hearing & Your Rights

The prospect of a formal disciplinary meeting can be daunting and stressful. To ease some of this worry, it is essential to prepare yourself both physically and mentally.

Being organised and thinking ahead about how the meeting will go, will help you remain calm and focused. You should also be clear on your rights to ensure a fair hearing. 

It might be tempting to bury your head in the sand and hope it all goes away. However, tackling the situation head on and being prepared means there is more chance of a successful disciplinary hearing outcome.

Employee Rights During Disciplinary Process

Understanding your rights during a disciplinary process can increase your chances of a successful outcome considerably.

UK employment law and established codes of practice provide protection against unfair disciplinary process. Taking the time to familiarise yourself with these will allow you to assert yourself in the right way during your disciplinary. A good understanding of the law will ensure you can uphold your right to a fair and considered process.

You should be aware of:-

  • The Employment Rights Act of 1996 – Understanding this law will help you advocate for your right to a fair disciplinary process. For a dismissal to be fair, the employer must not only have a fair reason but must also act reasonably in treating that reason as sufficient for dismissal, and follow a fair process.
  • The Equality Act of 2010 cites the legal right to be free from discrimination during disciplinary procedures. This protection covers a wide range of discriminative behaviour based on an employee’s religion, race, sex, sexual orientation, religious beliefs, age and disability. If you feel your disciplinary may be based on discriminatory grounds, you should familiarise yourself with the protections offered by this act.
  • The ACAS Code Of Practice on Disciplinary and Grievance Procedures helps maintain fairness throughout the process.  The code is not a UK law but it does set out the example employers should follow. Failure to conduct a fair process can result in tribunal action. This also covers the right of employees to a fair notice period for the upcoming hearing.


See Also: Unfair Dismissal – our guide on what unfair dismissal is may help give some perspective on unfair or flawed disciplinary procedures.

Preparing for a Disciplinary Hearing – Step By Step

Preparation is vital when it comes to an upcoming disciplinary hearing. While there is no specific notice period for planning a meeting, the notice given should be reasonable, to allow you time to prepare. It is essential to use what time you have wisely.

Follow our 8 steps to prepare for a disciplinary hearing:-

  1. Make sure you understand why the hearing has been called. This means being provided with clear reasons for this meeting taking place. This should be given to you in writing along with the date of the meeting.
  2. Go through your employer’s disciplinary policy and procedures. Should you not have access to this, ask the HR department. If one does not exist, you should refer to the ACAS code.
  3. Gather evidence to support your defence. This might be witness statements, copies of emails, screenshots of social media posts, or other relevant documents.
  4. If you belong to a union then you should seek their advice. They will be able to advise you on how the process should go. If you do not belong to a union, you can contact citizen’s advice, ACAS, or a solicitor if the case is serious.
  5. You should then prepare a written statement. This is a must as without this, you may not say everything you want to say at the time. It can be a stressful experience and in those moments our minds can go blank.
  6. Get witness statements – If you have any witnesses to support your defence or other evidence supplied by a colleague, get them to write a statement too.
  7. Take someone along to the meeting for support. This will usually need to be a colleague, trade union representative or someone else involved in the trade union. Consider asking them to take notes on your behalf so you have a record of what was said.
  8. Read as much information about disciplinaries as you can. The more you read, the more prepared and calm you will feel.

How To Prepare A Personal Written Statement For A Disciplinary Hearing

One of the most important parts of your preparation for the disciplinary hearing will be your personal written statement.

This is your chance to put all your points of defence down on paper. You can then refer to this during the meeting. Having this with you will keep you grounded and you won’t forget anything important.

Use Your Written Statement As a Response to The Allegations

Your written statement should only be put together once you have received a letter from your employer. This letter should outline the reasons you are facing disciplinary.

Each complaint or allegation should be written down. Your statement will be a response to these points, enabling you to put across your account of the situation.

Make A Note Of Relevant Laws To Protect Your Rights

Now is an extremely good time to understand your rights and be able to identify relevant laws to your situation. Use our suggested list from earlier, and create a list of relevant employment laws.

This will boost your confidence going into the meeting. It also means you will know whether you are being treated fairly. You can make some notes of such laws and their relevance.

Keep To The Facts Without Getting Emotional

It can be easy to lose your head a little when it comes to writing a statement. Sometimes our emotions run away with us. However, it is important to stick to the facts as much as possible.

Of course, if the events have taken their toll, it is fine, to be honest about this. The facts, however, should outweigh any emotions you put into your statement.

Lay Out Each Allegation and Your Response

In your letter, try and succinctly outline every allegation and then your response to them. You can add any evidence or anything else that backs up your version of events.

Try to keep these sections short and to the point without too much waffle.

Add In Other Relevant Information and Evidence

If anything has been overlooked by your employer, now is the time to add this. You might feel some of the information is untrue and have evidence to prove this. Or there might be some mitigating factors surrounding your behaviour that you would like to explain.

You should also, at this point, add any evidence that supports your statement. This might be documents, copies of emails or photos. You mustn’t breach GDPR guidelines as per the Data Protection Act of 2018,  at any point.

Sign, Date and Keep a Copy For Yourself

Once you are happy with your statement and it has been proofread, you should sign and date it. This proves it was written by you and the date helps with the timeline of events.

You should hang on to a copy of this so you can refer to it on the day of the hearing. You may also need it later in the disciplinary process.

During the Disciplinary Hearing

The day of the hearing has arrived and we understand this can be a stressful time. It is vital to remember that you have the right to a fair process. If you are uncomfortable at any point during the meeting, you should ask for it to be stopped.

Be Punctual and Organised

Be sure you arrive at the disciplinary hearing with time to spare. This allows you to be physically there without rushing but also allows you to mentally prepare yourself.

Be ready to show compliance with the process and arrive armed with your supporting evidence.

Be Professional

Maintain your professionalism throughout the meeting and do not let your emotions cloud your judgement.

Keeping calm will help you stay level headed and allow you to put your points across in a professional manner. A measured tone will help support your defence.

The Right To a Fair Hearing

At all times, your employer should be following the ACAS Code of Practice on Disciplinary and Grievance Procedures. You should not feel victimised, bullied or discriminated against.

If you feel uncomfortable at any point you must communicate this. Also, do not be afraid to ask for a break. These meetings can be intense and a break is usually welcomed by everyone.

Remember, if you do not agree with the outcome of your disciplinary you still have the option to appeal. This is something your employer must allow you to do to ensure a fair process.

Communication Tips During the Hearing

Below are some key tips for communicating well during your disciplinary meeting. Bearing these in mind can help you stay composed and focused on the day.

  • Let everyone have their say without interruption. You will feel many different emotions while listening to others talk about you. It is important to listen to what is being said without retaliating. You will get your time to talk freely too.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask questions.If at any point during the meeting, you are confused or do not understand something, do not be afraid to speak up. You might need a certain word defining to you or you might need clarification about something that has been said.
  • Do not rush your part in the meeting. It might be tempting to talk quickly and get it over with but this isn’t wise. Keep calm, deep breaths and think about your response before you start talking.
  • Remember, above all, to maintain your professionalism at all times. This means respecting everyone in the room at that time.
  • Go over any key points before the meeting finishes. This helps ensure there are no misunderstandings and everyone is on the same page. This will help when it comes to the next steps.

What Happens After A Disciplinary Hearing?

Once the meeting is over, the wait for the outcome can be stressful. Sometimes, waiting for the follow up can be almost as worrying as the meeting itself.

You can expect to hear the outcome fairly soon after the hearing. You should not be kept waiting for a prolonged period. There is no specific legislation about the length of time but employers should keep this as short as possible.

The outcome will depend on many factors and this will determine what happens next. You should remember that you always have the right to appeal. This is the case if you do not agree with the decision or you were not given a fair hearing.

Possible Outcomes and Legal Actions

Below are the possible outcomes following a formal disciplinary hearing between the employee and employer.

  • No further action is to be taken. This is the best case scenario and usually means there was insufficient evidence. It may also mean that other factors were taken into consideration such as mitigating circumstances.
  • A verbal or written warning may be issued. This is used in cases where there has been unacceptable behaviour in the workplace. This will usually stay on the staff member’s records for a set time period.
  • A final written warning may be the outcome of the disciplinary. This is more severe and demonstrates to the employee how serious the matter is. There are no more chances after such warnings, another wrongful act will usually mean dismissal. The final warning usually remains on file for a set time period such as 6 months.
  • Another form of disciplinary action may be used, such as demotion or suspension. This will depend on contractual rights and company policy.
  • Dismissal. The most severe outcome of a disciplinary hearing is dismissal. This will be used when you’ve been accused of gross misconduct. If dismissal is a possible outcome, you should be aware of this before the meeting.

See Also: How to beat gross misconduct & avoid dismissal.

When to Consider Legal Advice or Action

When the disciplinary is concluded and the decision has been made, you need to decide how you feel about the outcome.

Should you feel that either the outcome was not correct or you were not treated fairly, you have the right to appeal.

You may wish seek additional legal advice if you feel you’ve been treated unfairly, or feel you’ve been discriminated against. A good first port of call is Citizen’s Advice, or ACAS. Bear in mind that if an employment tribunal is possible, you have 3 months less one day to lodge a claim. Time is of the essence, so make sure you get advice as quickly as possible.

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