It is more important than ever to ensure employers conduct disciplinary hearings in a procedurally fair and correct way, in order to avoid unfair dismissal liability arising when the employer has a fair reason to dismiss. The following checklist might be useful to employers as a way of ensuring that all possible precautions have been taken:
Preparation for the hearing
The employee should be informed well in advance, preferably in writing, that he is required to attend a disciplinary hearing. The time and location of the meeting should be made clear, and there should be an appropriate period of time prior to that for the employee to prepare and for the employer to carry out proper investigations.
The employer should be informed in advance of the hearing of the specific allegations and be given sight of any relevant documents to enable a proper response to be prepared. Where appropriate, the employee should be suspended while investigations are continuing.
The employee should be invited to take a colleague or, when the law changes after Easter, a union official. Beware of the statutory right for the trade union official to delay the hearing for up to five working days (section 10(4) of Employment Relations Act 1999).
Wherever possible, the persons conducting the disciplinary hearing should not have been personally involved in the investigation, to avoid any inference of a pre-ordained conclusion.
Conduct of the hearing
Introduce each of the attendees and explain that this is a disciplinary hearing being held for the purpose of considering certain allegations regarding the employee's conduct. Explain that a note (or sometimes a recording) of the hearing is going to be taken. Invite the employee or the colleague to do likewise. If applicable, deal with any issue relating to the capacity in which the colleague is attending the meeting. Confirm that the employee may confer with the colleague but the employee must directly answer the questions.
Advise the employee of his right to put his side of the case, to ask questions, take notes, and, if necessary, request adjournments.
Put the facts and allegations to the employee one by one and ask for an explanation. In order to keep the hearing structured and to preserve order, make it clear to the employee that he should not interrupt until you have outlined each particular point. Although the union represent