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Expert intervention to address an employer’s poor disciplinary performance

Published 14 December 2022

Furious Jules was determined to get justice after being sacked - but she did not want her job back, so you could be forgiven for asking: what did she want?

The family support worker was dismissed for not carrying out the ‘required number’ of visits in a day.

The employer insisted Jules had received numerous previous warnings and that there was no other option.

When Jules spoke to our representative, she was adamant the decision amounted to an unfair dismissal.

Jules explained how she was effectively dismissed on the spot after being summoned to what she thought was a routine meeting with her boss. The invite email subject was ‘catch up.’

When Jules, who had worked for her employer for four years, attended the meeting she was greeted by her manager and a HR advisor.

The manager explained it was a formal hearing to discuss the ongoing concerns about Jules and her work.

Shocked Jules was furious because she felt ambushed. She argued it was out of order because she had no time to prepare.

Matters escalated and got out of control when the manager revealed it was in fact meant to be a disciplinary hearing.

An intense argument ensued between Jules and her manager, with the HR advisor also getting involved.

Upset Jules walked out and refused to take part in the meeting.

She said the manager warned if she did not return, the meeting would go ahead in her absence and she would be dismissed.

Tearful Jules ignored the request to return to the room and went home.

Later that afternoon she received a letter via email confirming her dismissal for ‘poor performance and failing to make the improvement required.’

Jules contacted our Employee Support Centre shortly after reading the letter.

Our representative discussed the case with Jules. He asked her for any evidence that showed the concerns her employer had raised with her about the number of visits she does. Jules said she had no evidence.

She explained there had been ongoing informal conversations with her manager about visits, was told she needed to do more, and had explained why she could not which she believed had been accepted.

Our representative queried if the employer had a performance management policy and if the manager had ever referred to it?

Jules provided a copy of the policy, which comprehensively detailed the process to address any performance concerns, but she said it had never been mentioned.

Our representative wrote and submitted a disciplinary appeal on behalf of Jules.

It listed a number of grounds explaining why the decision was unfair, including that fair processes had not been followed.

The appeal letter requested from the employer all of its evidence to show any performance concerns that had been raised with Jules, and of her being notified of the improvement required.

The employer provided some handwritten notes from the manager, said to have been taken during one-to-one meetings with Jules.

At the appeal hearing our representative questioned and challenged the relevance of the one-to-one notes. He highlighted the fact there was an established performance process to manage the concerns expressed about Jules.

Our representative went through the policy and said if it had been followed correctly there should be tangible evidence to support concerns and show any improvement required – but there was not.

The unreasonable process that led to the dismissal of Jules was also focused on in a wide-ranging appeal presentation.

The appeal hearing was told Jules was not notified in advance of a disciplinary hearing, there were serious breaches of the ACAS Code and the conduct of the manager and HR advisor was intimidating and completely unreasonable.

Key in any disciplinary appeal process is the employee’s desired outcome. Jules was adamant she wanted to leave on her terms with a settlement agreement.

The compelling appeal presentation by our representative, led to a discussion about a settlement, and a later period of negotiation before it was eventually agreed. Jules was delighted with the terms of it.

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