What is a disciplinary hearing? It’s an opportunity for
- the details of the disciplinary investigation to be considered
- a person not previously involved to review evidence gathered
- the person facing allegations to present mitigation or new evidence
When should a Disciplinary Hearing be convened?
After a Disciplinary Investigation is completed.
The Investigating Officer should have concluded that the evidence gathered suggests that there is the potential for the allegation(s) to be proven. They recommend that the matter be considered in a formal Disciplinary Hearing.
Your Disciplinary Policy probably outlines the process in your organisation for convening a Hearing. But typically, the employee is
- invited to attend the Disciplinary Hearing by letter or email
- given the right to be accompanied at the Hearing by a work colleague or trade union representative
- given a copy of the Disciplinary Policy
- sent an evidence bundle. Only evidence that the employee has been able to review should be considered at the Hearing
Who attends a Disciplinary Hearing?
Check your Disciplinary Policy. Different organisations have different standards. Our recommendation is that there should be
- a Hearing Chair.
- the Investigating Officer who presents their investigation to the Hearing. They will also answer any questions put to them. These are usually about the investigation process and the evidence that they’ve gathered
- a note taker. A formal record of the Hearing needs to be made. A note taker doesn’t need to be able to take shorthand. They just need to be able to write quickly and accurately. They’ll need the time to transcribe the notes afterwards. The note taker isn’t involved in the decision-making but needs to be able to keep things confidential.
- the employee facing the allegations
- the employee’s chosen companion
- witnesses? Not all Disciplinary Policies include this. In some organisations it’s sufficient that any witness has provided a written statement.
- HR? Sometimes. In larger organisations you sometimes see an HR representative accompanying the Chair to provide HR advice to anyone present at the Hearing.
Who Chairs a Disciplinary Hearing?
Ideally someone not previously involved in the investigation. But in small organisations it’s not always possible to have different people in different roles.
It needs to be someone
- able to be objective and impartial
- with the skill to process significant amounts of information and weigh evidence presented
- experienced at chairing formal meetings to ensure that the process is followed
- able to manage a meting with the potential for emotional outbursts
- more senior than the person facing the allegations if possible
- able to communicate effectively both verbally and in writing
How should a Disciplinary Hearing be conducted?
Again, check your Disciplinary Policy. Different organisations have different requirements.
- the Chair open proceedings reading a prepared statement that formally establishes the Hearing and tells those present what they can expect
- the Investigating Officer presents their investigation to the Hearing
- the employee is offered the chance to ask any questions of the Investigating Officer
- the employee or their companion presents their response to the investigation
- the Investigating Officer is able to put questions to the employee about their presentation
- the Chair can ask questions of anybody at any time
- both the Investigating Officer and the employee are asked if they want to make any closing statements
- the Hearing is briefly adjourned to give the Chair the chance to check that everything that they wanted to ask has been asked and answered
- no decision is made during the Hearing. The Hearing should be formally adjourned so that the Chair can do this. The Chair should tell the employee when they can expect an outcome and tell them they will have the right of appeal.
Where possible, the Investigating Officer and the Hearing Chair should be different people. Although small organisation’s maybe given some leeway with this, it’s not seen as fair that they are the same person.
It’s a formal meeting. Manage it in a professional manner at a pace that allows the note taker to keep up with proceedings. The note taker should be empowered to halt proceedings and ask to catch up. The Chair is responsible for making sure that the notes accurately reflect what happened.
Can someone from HR conduct a Disciplinary Hearing?
Yes, although it’s not often that we see HR professionals employed by the organisation in this capacity. More commonly they act in a support or advisory role. HR professionals are reminded of their limitations in Ramphal v Department for Transport .
In summary Mr Ramphal won his appeal against unfair dismissal. The Employment Appeal Tribunal decided that the Department’s HR function had exceeded its remit. This was because they advised the investigating officer, who was also conducting the disciplinary hearing, on matters relating to the employee’s culpability and credibility.
If someone from the HR Department has a role in deciding on guilt or innocence in a Disciplinary Hearing, or the level of sanction, that should be imposed, the employee needs to know this up front. This applies especially to cases where the Chair of the Disciplinary Hearing is inexperienced and seeks HR’s advice.
Can an external HR Consultant Chair a Disciplinary Hearing?
As external HR professionals, clients ask Metis HR to either carry out a Disciplinary Investigation or Chair a Disciplinary Hearing. Because we do this quite regularly, we’re usually more experienced than the average in-house HR person when it comes to disciplinary matters. There’s the added advantage that we’re external to the organisation making us less influenced by office politics. We don’t have personal relationships with people in the organisation to influence our work.
Please contact us if you want to talk about what is a disciplinary hearing. We’re happy to help.
Metis HR is a professional HR Consultancy based in the North West of England supporting clients across the country. We specialise in providing outsourced HR services to small and medium-sized businesses. Call us now on 01706 565332 to discuss how we may help you.