Most people go through their working life without being in a disciplinary procedure.
However if someone gets into trouble at work it is important that they understand these procedures. Disciplinary procedures will be contained in terms of employment or staff handbook .
Disciplinary sanctions can include a warning, verbal or written, suspension with or without pay and ultimately dismissal. Before any consequence more serious than a verbal warning, the person should have a disciplinary hearing.
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Any grievance procedure must conform with the rules of natural justice.
This means that
- Workers' grievances are fairly examined and processed;
- That details of any allegations or complaints are put to the worker concerned;
- That the worker is given the opportunity to respond fully to any such allegations or complaints;
- That the worker has the right to be represented during the procedure, and that the employer has an obligation to advise them of that right;
- That the worker has the right to a fair and impartial hearing, taking into account any representations made their behalf and of any other relevant or appropriate evidence, factors or circumstances.
It is important to remember that any significant departure from these standards means that the process is flawed and consequently any sanctions or punishments imposed are null and void
workers' rights at disciplinary hearings
Nature of the offence
You must be informed of the charges against you. They should represent all accusations. Management cannot introduce new accusations against you at the disciplinary hearing
Allegations to be put.
You must see the evidence which the employer has in your case. You must also know the nature of any meeting in advance. You cannot be 'ambushed' by being invited to a meeting on the Christmas party only to be presented with allegations of misbehaviour.
Support and representation
You have the right to be accompanied by a colleague or a union representative. You have the right to have a union representative present to speak on your behalf even if the company does not recognise a union. If you choose not to be represented by a union your choice is confined to colleagues. The employer is not obliged to admit a lawyer to a disciplinary meeting
Right to be impartial appeal
The manager who has imposed the sanction cannot be the person who hears the appeal
Basic standards for disciplinary procedures
Code of practice.
The Labour Relations Commission has produced a code of practice on grievance and disciplinary procedures. This code of practice embodies the principles of natural justice, and a link to it is available here. While it is not directly legally enforceable it sets out in a clear manner the principles of natural justice, and it is the template against which bodies such as Rights Commissioners and the Employment Appeals Tribunal will determine whether procedures were fair