Q. I have received a letter asking me to attend a disciplinary meeting. What are my rights?
A. You may have been asked to go to a disciplinary meeting because your employer is concerned about:
l your conduct, for example, something you have done or not done
l your capability, for example, your employer doesn’t think you’re capable of doing your job
l your long-term absence
l another reason affecting your work.
The letter asking you to go to the meeting should give you enough information to know why your employer has invited you to it. If they have any evidence they should let you have this beforehand. They should give you enough time to consider it and find evidence in support of your case. Your evidence can include witnesses.
If your employer has not given you any evidence, you should ask them for it. If you need more time to consider the evidence they have given you, you can ask for the meeting to be postponed so you have extra time. The amount of time you ask for should be reasonable.
What should you do before the meeting?
To prepare for the meeting, you should:
l make sure you know the case against you and the evidence for it
l make sure you’re prepared
l find a companion to take to the meeting, if you want one.
What if you cannot find anyone to go with you to the meeting?
If you cannot find anyone to go with you to the meeting, make sure you take notes during the meeting. Ensure that you aren’t rushed and that you feel you have enough time to take accurate notes.
What if you can’t make the time or place set for the meeting?
You should make every attempt to go to the meeting. However, if you can’t make the date of the meeting for a reason outside your control, you can ask your employer to postpone it to a later date. You should suggest another date within five working days.
If you fail to attend the meeting and don’t have a reasonable excuse for not attending, the meeting may go ahead without you.
Who will be at the meeting?
The people at the meeting will vary depending on the size of your employer. However, there will usually be you and your manager, and possibly someone to take notes, your companion and witnesses.
What will happen at the meeting?
Your employer will explain the reason for the meeting and go through the evidence they have. They should give you the opportunity to put your case and answer the allegations made against you. You should be allowed to ask questions, give your evidence and call witnesses.
If you get upset, need time to calm down, or just to think about something, you can ask for a short break.
How long will you have to wait for a decision?
It’s good practice for your employer not to give you their decision at the end of the meeting but to do so a short time later. They should have time to consider the case before coming to a decision and making additional checks.
What are the possible decisions your employer could make?
l After the meeting, your employer could decide:
l that no further action is necessary
l to discipline you in some way, for example, give you a formal warning, ask you to improve your performance within a certain period of time, suspend you without pay, or demote you
l to dismiss you.
How long will a disciplinary be held against you?
How long a disciplinary will be held against you depends on what the sanction is. For example, a first written warning could last six months, but a final one could last 12 months.
What if you disagree with the decision?
If you disagree with the decision, you have the right to appeal against it. Your employer should tell you that you have the right to appeal when they give you their decision, there are strict time limits for appealing.
If you are still unhappy with the outcome of the disciplinary meeting, you may be able to make a claim to an employment tribunal. If you want to do this, you can ask your local Citizens Advice for advice on how to make a claim.
You must bring a claim to an employment tribunal within three months of when the act which you are complaining about happened. It’s important to respond as quickly as possible. You can still make a claim even if your appeal has not yet been decided.
Get free, confidential and independent advice from your nearest Citizens Advice at www.citizensadvice.co.uk or for further information go to www.citizensadvice.org.uk/nireland