Wed 19 June, 2019
When all is not what is claimed during the disciplinary process
When it comes to disciplinary allegations the devil is sometimes in the detail when it comes to winning cases.
Employees will rightly fear the worst if they ever face allegations of breaching any company policy. The consequences of doing so can be severe.
It is why our representatives are sticklers for detail when it comes to carefully reviewing the allegations made against an employee.
It is certainly something that support worker Julie was thankful for when she was subject of a disciplinary investigation at work.
Julie had no idea about what to expect when a disciplinary allegation of failing to follow procedure when leaving work through illness thus leaving the service short staff was levelled against her.
The notification to attend a disciplinary hearing warned that if proven the allegation would be considered an act of gross misconduct that may lead to her dismissal.
Julie was devastated as she had worked for the company for 16 years and had an exemplary disciplinary record.
After contacting the Castle Associates Employee Support Centre to help Julie met with our representative and provided him with all of the evidence that was being used to support the allegation against her.
Our representative asked Julie about the procedure for leaving work when ill. She insisted that there was no formal procedure or policy that she was aware of.
Julie explained that on the day she left work she felt very unwell and faint. She later went to the accident and emergency department at her local hospital and was kept in overnight. When discharged the following day she had a number of voice messages from her manager.
Prior to a disciplinary hearing our representative will often contact an employer to request additional information that may help an employee’s case, as well as consider what else can be done to help.
In Julie’s case the employer was asked to provide a copy of the policy she was alleged to have breached. The company provided a copy of the employee handbook and said it was contained within it.
Our representative reviewed the 60-page handbook and found no clear policy in regards to the situation that led to the allegation being made against Julie.
It was thought that Julie’s colleagues could also help her case. Our representative referred to section 12 of the ACAS Code of Practice in requesting that two workmates attend the hearing as witnesses. There is no statutory entitlement for an employee to call witnesses at a disciplinary hearing, but the employer granted the request.
Our representative told the hearing that Julie’s manager was not present when she became ill and so she informed a senior colleague, who was one of those called to the hearing as a witness, that she was unwell and had to leave.
He pointed out that there was no clear policy contained within the handbook, as claimed, covering such situations. He maintained that Julie acted reasonably in the circumstances and at a time when she genuinely ill.
The two witnesses when questioned also confirmed that they were not aware of any such policy. Julie’s colleague also said she did inform the manager at the time that Julie was unwell, but she appeared perturbed because Julie did not tell her directly.
The witnesses also helped to support Julie’s assertion that in the past, in similar circumstances, the practice has always been to inform the manager or a senior member of staff.
Our representative argued that as there was no formal policy in place it can be asserted that this had become an established and therefore accepted notification practice for an employee to leave work when unwell.
The chair quizzed the witnesses and Julie. She then adjourned the hearing before informing Julie that she had been cleared of any wrongdoing.
“A reputation built on success”
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