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A nightmare disciplinary process with a happy ending

Published: 

Wed 27 March, 2019

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A nightmare disciplinary process with a happy ending

Hearing that disciplinary allegations are unproven can be the best news an employee hears after a period of great stress and anxiety.

When Emma was informed that no action would be taken against her following a disciplinary hearing it brought to an end a two-month nightmare.

As many people who have been through the disciplinary process will no doubt testify, simply protesting your innocence and highlighting that the process is unfair can sometimes feel as if it is not enough.

Department store worker Emma was suspended from work after she was first informed of the numerous allegations against her.

The wide-ranging allegations included failing to follow company policies, failure to comply with a verbal instruction, bullying a colleague and breaches of cash handling and security procedures.

Emma, who had worked for the store for 13 years, understandably feared the worse.

During the disciplinary investigation process Emma was invited to attend three separate investigation meetings.

She protested her innocence and provided details to refute all of the allegations put to her. Following the final investigation meeting the company decided Emma had a case to answer.

When she was invited to attend a disciplinary hearing many of the allegations had been dropped. Emma faced just two allegations, which were a failure to comply with a verbal instruction and behaviour causing the company to lose trust and confidence in her.

Emma contacted the Castle Associates Employee Support Centre for help.

Our representative reviewed the vast amount of evidence provided to support the two allegations. Much of it was irrelevant and referred to allegations that were dismissed and did not form part of the case against Emma

There was also no obvious evidence to support the allegation of a failure to comply with a verbal instruction. Our representative contacted the company to ask it to clarify what evidence it believed supported that specific allegation.

The HR advisor insisted the evidence was within the witness statements and any clarification would be provided at the hearing.

The company was made aware that such an approach was unfair and can be considered a breach of the ACAS Code of Practice, which provides statutory guidance that employers are encouraged to follow.

It was explained that the failure to provide the requested clarification meant Emma did not have sufficient information about the allegation. It also denied her a reasonable opportunity to prepare to respond to the allegation.

The employer remained resolute in its stance. A formal grievance was raised on Emma’s behalf on the grounds that she was being denied a fair hearing by a process that breached the ACAS Code.

After receiving the grievance letter, the company’s HR advisor contacted our representative and finally provided the clarification he had requested. It was agreed that this was enough to resolve the grievance.

The evidence of failing to follow an instruction was said to be in a statement from a witness, which claimed Emma ignored and failed to do as asked by her manager in regards to arranging a new display.

There was no evidence to show the named manager confirmed she issued any such instruction. The manager also did not provide a statement and there was no evidence of her ever making a complaint.

At the disciplinary hearing our representative argued that there was no evidence of Emma failing to follow an instruction. Emma was also able to provide evidence to show that with a colleague’s assistance she did in fact set up the display mentioned by the witness, but in another part of store as advised by a different manager.

Our representative told the hearing that the other allegation of a loss of trust and confidence should be dismissed. He said the apparent loss of trust and confidence in Emma comes from the allegation of failing to follow an instruction, and any reasonable employer would accept, that based on the evidence, the allegation is unsubstantiated.

 

The disciplinary meeting was adjourned to allow the hearing chair to consider the evidence. After a break of just under one hour, Emma was informed that the allegations had been dismissed.

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