How to Conduct a Disciplinary Hearing at Work

Knowing how to conduct a disciplinary hearing at work may be a job you never wish to do but you may become involved in such a task. It’s an important task and you need to ensure it is undertaken correctly. A poorly handled disciplinary will create many more headaches. In this article we will discuss some of the good practice involved in navigating this (potentially) rocky path.

Follow your disciplinary procedure

Prior to any meetings or hearings, you should first look to follow your disciplinary procedure exactly as it is laid out to ensure that you are maintaining the best practices for your business. If you do not have a procedure in place, you should have one otherwise things will be handled in an inconsistent way. If you do not have the capacity for this you may wish to obtain some expert guidance and consider outsourcing your disciplinary work to a professional human resources company.

Of course, there are a wide range of issues which occur in the workplace.  Some issues likely to warrant disciplinary action could include:

  • Constant absence or lateness
  • Workplace bullying
  • Misconduct
  • Theft of company property (usually gross misconduct)

Ensure the case requires a meeting

All disciplinary cases are different, some may need several formal disciplinary meetings whereas while others can be dealt with informally with a verbal warning, for example. You should always look to have an outside opinion on the matter, someone who can offer a viewpoint away from the situation. This can either be a manager of another department, a member of your internal human resources team or even an outsourced human resources’ professional.

Two people with pens covering a disciplinary hearing

Find a suitable date

The first thing that you will need to do in planning the disciplinary process is to establish a date that fits into everyone’s calendar.  There may be several parties involved, the employee being disciplined’, their representative and someone from your HR team or an external professional. Once you have found a date that suits all parties you will then be able to prepare for the hearing.

Gather up all evidence

You should always go into your disciplinary meeting well prepared. You should gather all relevant evidence. For example:

  • Full details about what happened
  • Different viewpoints from multiple ‘witnesses’
  • Try and include exact times and dates
  • Prepare for any argument that could be raised by the employee
  • Physical evidence such as CCTV footage, absence letters etc

Once you have all the relevant information you are then ready to proceed with the hearing.

Be fair and exercise judgment based on the evidence and not on assumptions

Whilst it may be tempting to fly in with all guns blazing you should always look to hear all sides of the story and weigh up the information you have to hand.  Be thorough in examining the information and what the parties have to say. Base your comments on the details which are in front of you.  Your decision to hand out any sanction must be based on a careful balancing of evidence and make your assessment.  It is also a good idea to make sure that you have an impartial third party in the hearing. This is not only important for notetaking purposes it will also help to minimise bias and assist in arriving at a balanced decision. It is crucial to stay fair and listen to the various perspectives.

Gold gavel ready for a disciplinary hearing

Think carefully about the appropriate outcome

If you find that the case warrants some form of disciplinary sanction, your evidence must support the level of sanction applicable. This includes whether the act is simply the first instance of misconduct or gross misconduct. Some of the forms of action you could take include:

  • Verbal warnings
  • Written warnings
  • Final warnings
  • A reduction in pay (can be temporary and be very careful here)
  • Demotion
  • Suspension
  • Termination

If you would like to learn any further information regarding how to conduct a disciplinary hearing, or if you would like to use our outsourcing disciplinary services to hold a disciplinary meeting at work then please feel free to get in touch with a friendly member of our team today.