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Establishing the truth in disciplinary matters.

Published 13 January 2016

While instances of using a lie detector to dismiss an employee are extremely rare getting to truth of any disciplinary matter remains a testing issue.

At the start of the year a courier firm which suffered a number of thefts is said to have subjected 16 employees to a lie detector test. As a result one driver was reportedly fired because his test proved to be inconclusive

Although the accuracy of a polygraph test has long been controversial, it is not the first time it has been referred to in dismissing an employee in the UK.

A milkman accused of cheating on his wife while on his rounds was sacked after failing three lie detector tests on the Jeremey Kyle show. His then employer found his actions brought the company into disrepute.

For any employer faced with having to investigate disciplinary allegations against a member of staff the best course of action remains to conduct the process following the company disciplinary policy and Acas Code of Practice.

Carrying out a reasonable investigation before instigating disciplinary action is a vital part of a fair disciplinary procedure. The investigation should be conducted without unreasonable delay to establish the facts of the case.

If it is deemed appropriate the employee may be suspended with pay while an investigation is conducted. Where it is necessary, the member of staff should be invited to an investigatory meeting, informed of the allegations and given reasonable time to prepare for the meeting. The meeting should be used to obtain the employee’s version of events and to establish the facts of the case.

Any relevant documents and evidence should be gathered and meetings should also be arranged with any witnesses as soon as possible in order to get their account of an incident and to take their statements.

If it is decided that the matter should proceed to a disciplinary hearing, the employee should be invited to a meeting, provided with all of the evidence, informed of their statutory right to be accompanied, given reasonable time to prepare for the hearing and given an opportunity to respond to any allegation.

Following a disciplinary hearing it may be decided that dismissal is the appropriate sanction. This should be based on a reasonable belief that the employee was guilty of the alleged misconduct, based upon reasonable grounds and a reasonable investigation.

This still remains the fairest way to conduct a disciplinary process – and to dismiss an employee.

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For employment law advice or if you are affected or want information and support by any of the issues in this article please give us a call. 

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