An investigation confirms there is a case for an employee to answer at a disciplinary hearing, and an invitation to the hearing has been sent to the employee. What now? As a small to medium sized business owner, your heart may sink to your stomach at the prospect – after all, disciplining staff is not why you started your company. So, how do you prepare for a disciplinary hearing? We’ve put together five simple steps you can follow to ensure the best outcome at the hearing and remain compliant with current guidance.
Step One – Clearly Understand the Complaint
You may not have had much to do with the case until this point; however, now you must make yourself aware of the allegations against the employee and the surrounding circumstances. It is important to review the investigation report and all evidence in-depth. Have clearly in mind the four W’s and one H, when, what, who, where and how – if you can do this, it will add authority to your position in the meeting. It will also help when you explain to the employee what they have allegedly done wrong.
Step Two – Prepare Well
“By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” ― Benjamin Franklin.
The words of President Franklin are still true to this day; preparing for the disciplinary hearing is essential. Firstly, review your company’s disciplinary procedure, become familiar with your process and importantly timescales. ACAS guidance suggests ‘think about the structure of the meeting and make a list of points you will wish to cover’. Create an agenda for the hearing, including introductions, an explanation of the alleged misconduct, presenting evidence, and allowing the employee to set out their case and answer any allegations, adjournment and what happens next.
You should also ‘ensure that all the relevant facts are available, such as disciplinary records and any other relevant documents (for instance absence or sickness records) and, where appropriate, written statements from witnesses’. We would suggest filing the documents in such a way that individual records can be easily found and accessed. Don’t forget that it is important that these are sent to the employee before the hearing too, so that they have the opportunity to review them and prepare for the hearing.
Step Three – Remain Open Minded
The ripple effects of the alleged misconduct may have torn through your organisation, and in this situation taking sides and having opinions is easy. However, we can’t stress this enough: don’t go into the meeting having predetermined the outcome! You should remain open-minded with the view to actively listening to the employee, to ensure a fair hearing.
Step Four – Consider the Employee’s Wellbeing
Are you feeling stressed and exasperated? No doubt the employee feels the same. Continue to treat the employee with respect and dignity; not only will this keep the lines of communication open, but it will also help to keep your business’s reputation intact. There are some practical things you can do as well. Ensure the employee is aware of their right to a companion, make certain they have all the relevant documents, allow them plenty of time to prepare, make them aware of the possible outcomes of the process, permit reasonable adjustments, ensure the meeting room is set up appropriately with water, tissues, etc., and ensure the hearing is held in a private location.
Step Five – Ensure Your Own Wellbeing
As we’ve said before, going through a disciplinary process can be stressful. During these situations, we can easily forget about our own wellbeing. Aim to connect with other people (whilst respecting confidentiality), remain physically active, give to others and pay attention to the present moment. While it may seem like the process will last forever, it will end!
If you would benefit from support in training line managers on the topic of disciplinary or performance management or directly need help please get in touch with View HR so we can discuss how we can support your business.