Steps UK employers should take when dismissing or disciplining an employee

Recently, we’ve been focusing on fair and unfair dismissals. Today we are placing the spotlight on the processes that employers need to go through when dismissing or disciplining an employee. These are known as disciplinary procedures.

From 6th April 2009 onwards, any employer who wishes to take disciplinary action or dismiss an employee should be following disciplinary and grievance procedures. Although this is not a requirement by law, failure to follow disciplinary procedures without any good reason could lead to greater compensations.

Sending a letter

The first step in any disciplinary process should be to write a letter explaining the problem.

Arranging a meeting

After contacting the employee in writing, a meeting at a reasonable time and place should be arranged to discuss the problem. Employees have the right to have someone accompanying them to the meeting, this can be a colleague or perhaps a trade union representative.

Right to Representation

Workers have the legal right to be accompanied at any formal disciplinary interview by either a fellow worker or a trade union official of their choosing. However, this is as far as the statute goes. The statutory right to be accompanied does not extend to legal representation. That said, there is nothing to prevent an employer from granting a contractual right to legal representation at disciplinary hearings.

Informing of the decision

As part of fair disciplinary procedures, the employer must inform the employee of their decision within a reasonable amount of time after the meeting has ended.

Appealing

Employees have the right to appeal the employer’s decision if they disagree with it. Although appealing is not a requirement, tribunals can reduce the compensation awarded if the employee failed to appeal.

A further meeting should be arranged to discuss the appeal. As with the previous meeting, the employer must inform of their final decision in writing.

If the employee is still not happy with the decision, they can make a claim to an employment tribunal. In most cases, applications to an employment tribunal three months less from one day from the date of the dismissal.

Note of dismissal

Most situations will require employers to give notice before dismissing an employee. This depends on the length of service. Individuals are entitled to reasonable notice, even if they have no legal right to minimum notice. The minimum is:

–   1 week for employment between 1 week and 2 years

–   2 weeks for employment over 2 years

–   3 weeks for 3 years etc, up to a maximum of 12 weeks.

If an employee has been dismissed without being given the proper notice, the length of service is calculated as including the notice which should have been given. However, the employment is treated as ending the day that the employee was dismissed when working out time limits for a tribunal claim.

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