Disciplinary hearing

Disciplinary hearings: common misunderstandings and what to do

Disciplinary hearings: common misunderstandings and what to do

Disciplinary hearings are often emotionally charged, and as a result, many of the rules and procedures surrounding them are misunderstood. However, it’s vital to follow the correct procedures for the issue to be resolved swiftly and efficiently as deviation by either party can result in a potentially costly court case.

The team of employment law experts at Foys can explain some of the facts about disciplinary hearings.

Acas code of practice

The Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service code of practice sets out guidelines for handling disciplinary procedures informally. Contrary to popular belief, the code itself is not legally binding. However, if the case goes to court, a failure to follow it will be taken into account, potentially adjusting any payouts by up to 25%.

According to the code, an employer should follow several disciplinary steps:

  1. First, a letter will be sent to the employee to clearly state the problem, with full details about what has been done wrong. There should be an opportunity for the employee to respond to this.
  2. A meeting will be held to discuss the issue further. No disciplinary action should be taken before the meeting has occurred.
  3. A disciplinary decision will be reached. Normally, the employee will find out about this in written form soon after the meeting.
  4. After the action has been decided, there should be an opportunity to appeal the decision. The appeal should be done within a reasonable amount of time from the original decision, and be in written form.

Employers should have a written record of disciplinary rules and procedures to deal with employee conduct and performance, and it must be made available to all staff.

Mediation between employees and employee

Often, mediation can be an option when formal disciplinary action is not considered appropriate. However, it is voluntary and must be agreed on by both parties. Furthermore, though the employer can advocate its use, they cannot enforce any form of punishment on the employee for choosing not to use a mediator.

Mediation can only be used where appropriate; it is not a way for managers to shift their responsibility elsewhere. If your manager wishes for you to consider mediation, then it’s worth ensuring that you understand what that includes. A free initial consultation with the mediators at Foys will help you understand when mediation is the right choice.

Suspension and dismissal


The purpose of a disciplinary suspension is often misinterpreted. The decision to suspend an employee is often part of the investigation process rather than a punishment, and the reason should be made clear. If you are suspended because an allegation of misconduct has made against you, you are allowed to know the details of the allegation. Suspensions should be kept as brief as possible, and during the period of suspension, the contract of employment and usual pay arrangements will continue.


Employers do not have the right to dismiss you on nothing but their preference. Clear guidelines must have been set out in advance and disciplinary procedures for breaking them detailed. Failure to follow these guidelines gives grounds for an unfair dismissal claim to be made. You can also claim for being unfairly selected for redundancy. If you have worked at that particular workplace for two years or more, you should make sure that the employer followed a fair procedure when making you redundant, and has tried within reason to find you other employment within the company (known as suitable alternative employment). If not, then you have grounds to make an unfair redundancy claim.

Not every eventuality can be prepared for, and there may be cases where your employer is forced to use their discretion to make a decision. In these instances, it can be hard to determine what is considered ‘fair’ practice in the eyes of the law. Consider contacting our employment solicitors to know for certain whether you should pursue the case or not.

Get assistance from Foys

At Foys, our dedicated team of solicitors are experts in untangling the complicated laws surrounding disciplinary tribunals. We can advise you when you have a potential case and what rights you have as an employee.

To find out more about how we can help you get your career back on track, get in touch using our Online Form – or call your local Foys Solicitors office:

  • Doncaster – 01302 327 136
  • Retford – 01777 703 100
  • Worksop – 01909 500 511
  • Clowne – 01246 810 050
  • Rotherham – 01709 375 561
  • Sheffield (Waterthorpe) – 0114 251 1702
  • Sheffield (Chapeltown) – 0114 246 7609

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