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Taking stock when the disciplinary process is unfair

Published: 

Wed 3 April, 2019

Disciplinary hammer

Disciplined for unfair reason

Taking stock when the disciplinary process is unfair

As bizarre as it may seem it is not unusual for an employee to face disciplinary action for breaching a non-existent company ‘policy’.

Our representatives at Castle Associates have probably seen it all when it comes to unfair disciplinary processes.

Jilly had worked at a dental practice in the North of England for just over three years and enjoyed her work.

She was shocked when informed she was to face a disciplinary investigation based on complaints from colleagues.

The allegation put to Jilly at an investigation meeting was that she had not been performing stock checks in accordance with the Practice’s policy.

Jilly said she performed the task as instructed by her previous manager and was never made aware of any concerns or complaints.

She was told because staff had complained and she had effectively admitted the allegation the matter would proceed to a disciplinary hearing.

Before being invited to attend a disciplinary hearing Jilly was given training on what was expected of her in regards to stock checking and stock rotation.

A week later Jilly was handed a letter inviting her to attend a disciplinary hearing. The letter listed the allegation as failing to comply with the stocktaking policy, which negatively impacted on the running of the practice and has resulted in complaints from staff.

Enclosed with the letter was copy of the practice disciplinary policy and notes of the investigation meeting.

Jilly contacted the Castle Associates Employee Support Centre for help.

After discussing the case with Jilly and reviewing the invite letter and evidence provided, our representative contacted to the employer to request a number of documents.

This included the stocktaking policy, details/evidence of the adverse impact on the running of the Practice; Jilly’s training record and the complaints from staff.

The Practice manager said the information would be provided on the day, and prior to the start of the disciplinary hearing. Our representative argued that is a breach of the ACAS Code of Practice, which provides statutory guidance all employers are encouraged to follow.

He maintained that the Code does state the evidence should be provided in advance to allow the employee reasonable time to prepare a response to the allegation/s. He said if it is provided on the day it denies Jilly ‘reasonable time’ to consider it and prepare her response.

The Practice was resolute in its stance. It was adamant the information requested would be provided on the day. However, it did provide a copy of the stocktaking policy which was a great help to Jilly’s case.

Our representative was able to establish that the policy provided was the first version – and that it was only introduced after Jilly was made aware of the allegation against her.

At the start of the hearing the Practice did not provide any evidence of complaints from staff or to demonstrate how it had been affected by Jilly’s alleged failings.

It was explained by our representative that this coupled with the stocktaking policy being introduced after the allegation meant Jilly had legitimate grounds for a formal grievance. This was based on the unfair treatement she was being subjected to, and because she justifiably felt victimised.

This initiated a conversation about the case in which the Practice conceded that the stocktaking policy was not in existence at the time, but that Jilly should have known what was expected of her.

In a lengthy conversation about the case our representative highlighted that Jilly had now been fully trained, and that it was evident that the disciplinary process was unfair. The company eventually agreed to dismiss the allegation.

Jilly’s desired outcome from the outset was to clear her name and remain in work while she looked for another job, which she found a few weeks later.

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