How to be successful at a disciplinary hearing

How to be successful at a disciplinary hearing

A disciplinary hearing is likely to be a challenging experience for all concerned. It is common for individuals, who are the subject of the hearing, to feel as though there is nothing that they can do to influence the outcome, but thinking that way would be an error which could have damaging consequences. Similarly, those overseeing the disciplinary hearing may know that a hearing is necessary but not appreciate what steps should be followed in order for the hearing to be effective. This blog will consider the question ‘how to be successful at a disciplinary hearing’ both from the perspective of the individual and the organisation.

How to be successful at a disciplinary hearing when you are accused of wrongdoing – 5 tips

1. Ensure you are aware of what the allegations against you are

Prior to the hearing itself, you should have been made aware of precisely what has been alleged. For example, simply notifying you that misconduct is alleged without providing any further detail would be inadequate, because it is so vague that it does not even say what you are being accused of. The amount of information should be sufficient to enable anyone accused of wrongdoing to be able to know what they are facing and be able to challenge it. For example, what is the nature of the alleged wrongdoing e.g. theft, insubordination to name but two. When did it allegedly happen and where?

2. Prepare properly for the disciplinary hearing

Once you know what the allegations are, ensure you have any relevant documentation before the hearing. Consider if there is any evidence that supports your version of events or if there are any witnesses who could strengthen your case. For example, are there emails which you would like to be taken into account at the hearing which have not been provided to you? If so, request that this material is also included, and make the request as soon as possible.

3. Don’t try to set up an ambush at the disciplinary hearing

It is common for people accused of wrongdoing to present documents at a disciplinary hearing which the disciplinary panel have not seen before. Perhaps this is due to not knowing what notice should be given, or maybe it was due to a desire to surprise. Whatever the reason, this approach can cause problems, particularly when the issues involved are complex, because the panel may not have the time to scrutinise the new material properly. As far as possible, there should be no surprises for anyone. Everyone should be aware of the material in advance, as well as who will be attending as witnesses and essentially what they will say. If you would like extra material included, request it as soon as possible. If you have material that is relevant, but the panel is not aware of it, provide it before the disciplinary hearing. If you would like witnesses to attend, request that as soon as possible.

4. Turn up in person to the disciplinary hearing and engage with the process

Whilst it may be tempting to avoid the distress of the hearing, that approach would have a number of disadvantages. For example, if you were to choose simply not to turn up, the hearing may well take place despite your absence. Whereas, if you were there, you would be able to challenge the evidence, point out evidence that is helpful to you and question witnesses.

5. Keep calm and remember that success at the disciplinary hearing is not all about confidence

A disciplinary hearing is likely to be an ordeal and it is common for people to become distressed and angry at being accused of this or that. However, becoming angry is likely to adversely impact on a person’s ability to think clearly which in turn may well damage the chances of success. It is common for people to think that having confidence or possessing a forceful nature are characteristics which provide an advantage at a disciplinary hearing. That is not necessarily so. It is important to get the foundations right, by following the points above, rather than simply showing strength at the hearing itself.

Plotkin & Chandler offers a range of services for employees from providing guidance on topics such as preparing for a disciplinary hearing to Employment Tribunal representation. If you would like to discuss the ways in which we can help call us on 020 3923 8616 or email on info@plotkinandchandler.com

How to be successful at a disciplinary hearing as an organisation – 5 tips

1. Follow the policies and procedures that are in place

Organisation’s often have policies in place, the problem is that sometimes they are not followed. Deviating from such policies or ignoring them all together, is likely to cause uncertainty and inconsistency. If your organisation would like a review of its HR documentation we would be pleased to assist. 

2. Ensure that a proper disciplinary investigation is carried out

A thorough disciplinary investigation, and the documentation associated with it, is likely to be very useful to the disciplinary panel. The material means, for example, that they have the necessary information at their finger tips such as interview statements, emails, policies etc. Having a strong grasp of the situation, and what needs to be tackled, means that any questions from the disciplinary panel are focused and get to the heart of the matter.  

Plotkin & Chandler has expertise in all aspects of a disciplinary investigation whether that is providing training or undertaking a disciplinary investigation on behalf of your organisation. For a summary of the topic see our blog disciplinary investigation: 5 things you should know.

3. Disclose what material will be considered at the hearing

It is important that any material that is relevant to the disciplinary hearing, such as emails, documents, policies, witness statements etc. should be sent to the individual before the hearing. Why will this help the hearing go smoothly? Because it is an indication that the individual is being treated fairly: there will be no surprises about what will come up at the hearing because the person will have seen the documents beforehand and will have been able to properly prepare. In such circumstances, it is much less likely that the individual would argue that something has been missed, or that they did not know what was happening, because the whole process has been transparent from the outset.

Plotkin & Chandler has expertise in providing training and consultancy relating to the entire disciplinary process, including the disclosure of material and/or assembling material for a disciplinary hearing.

4. Consider having HR support at the disciplinary hearing

Disciplinary hearings are often daunting for everyone involved. It is common for the disciplinary panel to consist of people who have a knowledge of what the organisation expects in terms of conduct but who do not have a HR background and therefore are unaware of how a disciplinary hearing should be run, and what the potential consequences are if it is not run properly. Having such support available at the hearing means that any potential pitfalls are avoided and the process remains objective and fair.

Plotkin & Chandler has expertise relating to all aspects of the disciplinary process and we can provide advice and guidance before, during and after the hearing to ensure that all aspects have been handled correctly.

5. Take notes throughout the disciplinary hearing

A common oversight is for a disciplinary hearing to take place but for minutes to be vague or brief.

Effective minutes provide evidence of what was said and done during the disciplinary hearing. Without effective minutes, what evidence is there of what happened at the hearing?

Plotkin & Chandler has expertise in providing training and consultancy relating to minute taking.

For more information on when disputing the minutes of a meeting can happen, and what an organisation can do to reduce the likelihood of it, read our blog disputing minutes of a meeting.

As referred to above, Plotkin & Chandler offers a range of services to ensure that a disciplinary hearing is successful for organisations. If you would like to discuss your requirements call us on 020 3923 8616 or email us on info@plotkinandchandler.com




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