The following procedure should be viewed as an intervention to emphasise the achievement and maintenance of satisfactory standards of conduct.
The College expects all employees to carry out their job and responsibilities effectively and to treat others with respect and courtesy.
The disciplinary and dismissal procedure deals with issues relating to unsatisfactory conduct and aims to help and encourage employees to improve to the standard expected by the College.
It is expected that the majority of potential disciplinary issues can be resolved informally through discussion and co-operation. The College and its employees should always, where appropriate and possible, seek to resolve disciplinary issues at as local a level as possible and via informal methods in the first instance. Where an issue cannot be resolved informally, it should be pursued through the formal procedures. The disciplinary and dismissal procedure sets out the basic requirements of fairness that will be applied.
For issues involving bullying and/or harassment, reference should be made to the Dignity at Work and Study policy and procedures.
For issues involving job performance, reference should be made to the Capability (Performance) procedure.
Issues relating to cases of ‘whistleblowing’ will be dealt with under the Public Interest Disclosure policy.
Advice is available from the Human Resources Department on all aspects of disciplinary and dismissal procedures.
This procedure applies to all employees who have successfully completed their probationary period. It does not apply to academic staff who are covered by the College Charter and Statutes nor to agency workers or staff with a contract for services.
Informal action will always be considered, where appropriate, to resolve issues.
Disciplinary action will not be taken against an employee until the case has been fully investigated.
In situations where a formal disciplinary sanction may be the outcome, the employee will be advised in writing of the nature of the complaint against him or her and will be given the opportunity to state his or her case before any decision is made.
Employees will be given copies of documentation and other material, including witness statements, that will be relied upon in advance of the disciplinary meeting.
At all stages of the formal procedure, including the investigation meeting, the employee will have the right to be accompanied by a trade union representative or work colleague from within the College. Further details on companions at formal meetings are outlined in Appendix 1.
No employee will be dismissed for a first breach of discipline except in instances where it is established through due process that gross misconduct has occurred; then the sanction may be dismissal without notice or payment in lieu of notice.
The formal disciplinary and dismissal procedure may be implemented at any stage if an employee's alleged misconduct or attendance is deemed sufficiently serious to warrant it. The Human Resources Department will be involved throughout all stages of the formal disciplinary and dismissal procedure.
During the formal stages of the disciplinary process, the person nominated to carry out an investigation will normally be different from the person nominated to Chair or carry out any subsequent disciplinary hearing even where the facts are clear and based on confirmed records or empirical evidence.
An employee has the right to appeal against any formal disciplinary action or sanction.
Any disciplinary sanction that is imposed should be proportionate to the severity of the case and should be applied consistently.
All cases of formal disciplinary action will be recorded by the Human Resources Department and monitored and reported in relation to equality and diversity.
Managers are responsible for ensuring their team achieve and maintain agreed standards of behaviour and should:
• seek advice from Human Resources when considering formal disciplinary action;
• adhere to this disciplinary and dismissal procedure;
• lead by example through their individual conduct and behaviour;
• aim to resolve conflict promptly and effectively, considering the use of mediation where relevant and appropriate.
Guidelines are available which provide further information for managers involved in disciplinary meetings.
Employees are expected to:
• adhere to the College rules, policies and procedures;
• understand the impact of their behaviour on others;
• seek clarification about expectations, behaviours and rules with their manager if they are unsure about them;
• co-operate if asked to be involved in a disciplinary meeting;
• treat those dealing with a disciplinary matter with courtesy and respect.
In many cases the right word at the right time and in the right way will be all that is needed. This will often be a more satisfactory way of dealing with a breach of the College’s rules than a formal enactment of disciplinary proceedings. Additional training, coaching and advice may also be needed. However, in such circumstances and as appropriate, the employee should also be made aware that formal processes will be invoked if there is no improvement or if any improvement fails to be maintained.
The manager should talk to the employee in private; the purpose of the discussion being to find informal routes for resolution of the issues. This should be a two-way discussion, aimed at highlighting and exploring the perceived shortcomings in conduct, attendance and encouraging improvement. Feedback should be constructive, with the emphasis on finding ways for the employee to improve and for the improvement to be sustained. This may entail the agreement of additional support, guidance and/or training plans.
The manager should listen to what the employee has to say about the issue. Such dialogue may highlight evidence that there are underlying causes such as personal problems or issues wider than the matter at hand that need to be resolved independently. Support and attention should then be focused on these other matters.
However, where improvement is required, the manager should make sure the employee understands what needs to be done, how their conduct or attendance will be reviewed, and over what period. This will be put in writing and the employee will be informed that if there is no improvement formal disciplinary procedures will be initiated.
The manager should be careful that any informal action does not turn into formal disciplinary action, as this may unintentionally deny the employee certain rights, such as the right to be accompanied. If during the discussion it becomes apparent that the matter may be more serious, the meeting should be adjourned. The employee should be told that the matter will be continued under the formal disciplinary and dismissal procedure. In essence, it should be crystal clear to all whether the meeting is informal or, alternatively, a formal meeting as part of the disciplinary and dismissal procedure. The manager will keep brief notes of any agreed informal action for reference purposes. There should be reviews of progress over specified periods.
In some cases, where the manager considers that formal disciplinary action is not appropriate, an independent third party mediator may help resolve disagreements over disciplinary issues. Further details on mediation are contained in Appendix 2.
Mediation will be proposed only where appropriate and not as a means of absolving managers of their responsibilities.
Mediation is voluntary and will only take place with the agreement of both parties. Whilst mediation may be advocated by the College, with fuller explanation and encouragement given to its use, there will be no coercion and no punitive consequences to any party as a result of choosing not to undertake this route to resolution.
In cases where mediation is used amidst disciplinary procedures, the formal processes will be temporarily suspended pending the outcome of the mediation.
If informal action does not bring about an improvement, or the misconduct is considered too serious to be classed as minor, the College will consider the use of the formal disciplinary measures.
The Human Resources Department must be consulted at the earliest possible stage in all cases where formal action is being considered and will actively participate in all formal meetings. Examples of misconduct which could lead to formal disciplinary action are outlined in Appendix 3.
Gross misconduct is a serious breach of College policies and disciplinary procedures that amounts to a fundamental breach of trust and confidence between the employee and the College. It can result in a summary dismissal for a first breach.
Summary dismissals for gross misconduct will be without notice or payment in lieu of notice.
An investigation will take place where it is suspected that the College disciplinary rules have been broken. The manager or other appropriate person will instigate an investigation. The manager may undertake the investigation, or in more serious breaches will ask a colleague not immediately associated with the matter to undertake the investigation and report back with findings. In some instances this may include a meeting with the employee and/or witnesses to the incident(s). The purpose of the investigation will be to establish the facts and determine whether there is a case to answer to be addressed at a disciplinary hearing. This will be set out in a written report. The manager undertaking the investigation will not be involved in determining the disciplinary outcome.
Suspension from work duties will only occur in cases of gross misconduct or where it is felt necessary to undertake the investigation effectively. A decision to suspend an employee will be a neutral act and not a punitive action. This will be made clear to the suspended employee. Suspension will normally be made by a line manager in consultation with Human Resources.
Suspension will take place where:
• There is a significant risk or significant potential risk to health and safety or the College.
• The presence of the employee could hamper a thorough and fair investigation.
An employee may be suspended at the start of the investigation or at any time during the course of the investigation. A suspended employee will not be allowed onto College premises without the prior consent of the manager. Suspensions will be for as brief a period as possible and will be kept under review. During the period of suspension the contract of employment will continue together with normal pay arrangements.
At all stages of the formal procedure the employee will have the right to be accompanied by a trade union representative, or work colleague from within the College and should inform the investigating manager or meeting Chair that they wish to be accompanied prior to the meeting. Further information on the right to be accompanied is contained in Appendix 1.
When dealing with issues or allegations which may be considered a disciplinary matter, the investigating manager will adopt the following process:
• inform the employee in writing that this is a disciplinary matter and detail the nature of the allegations and advise of the right to be accompanied;
• investigate the issue to establish the facts advising the employee in writing;
• hold a meeting with the employee to discuss the issues;
• provide the employee with the opportunity to respond;
• inform the employee of their decision; of any disciplinary sanction and the right of appeal; or opportunities for mediation where appropriate.
A disciplinary meeting will be arranged when the investigation indicates there is a case to answer. The employee will be invited to attend and this will be confirmed in writing. The notification will contain sufficient information about the alleged misconduct. Where there is a possibility that the employee may be dismissed, for example for gross misconduct, this will be made clear in the written notification.
The employee will be given 5 working days notice of the meeting and copies of documentation that will be relied on at the disciplinary meeting will be sent to the employee prior to the meeting. The letter will explain that the employee has the right to be accompanied.
The disciplinary meeting will normally be conducted by an appropriate manager who will act as the Chair. This will not be the investigating officer. The meeting will also include a representative from the Human Resources Department. The employee and their companion will make every effort to attend the meeting.
The Chair will explain the allegations against the employee and outline the evidence, including any evidence from witnesses. The employee will have the opportunity to state their case fully and answer the allegations that have been made. The employee will also be given a reasonable opportunity to ask questions and present evidence. They will have the opportunity to call witnesses where advance notice to the Chair has been given and raise points about any information provided by any of the witnesses, but not to cross-examine them.
Prior to making a decision, the disciplinary meeting will be adjourned to consider all relevant information. The meeting may also be adjourned to clarify or gather additional information. If new information is gathered or clarified the employee will be advised of the new information and given a reasonable time to consider it prior to the meeting being reconvened.
At the conclusion of the meeting, the Chair in consultation with the representative from Human Resources, will decide whether or not disciplinary or any other action is justified and will prepare to inform the employee. When the Chair is satisfied that all relevant information has been properly considered the decision, including any disciplinary sanction, will be communicated to the employee.
Normally 5 working days written notice will be given to attend a disciplinary meeting. Variations to the timescales outlined within this procedure may be unavoidable in exceptional circumstances and the employee will be notified if this is the case.
If the employee’s companion is not able to attend the meeting, it will be rearranged within 5 days of the original date.
If an employee fails to attend a disciplinary meeting without good reason, a decision on the disciplinary issue may be taken in the employee’s absence.
A first stage disciplinary sanction will be in writing and will set out the nature of the misconduct; the change in behaviour required; together with the timescales and details of training and support. The first written warning will also inform the employee that a final written warning may be considered if there is no sustained satisfactory improvement or change. A record of the warning will be kept, but it will be disregarded for disciplinary purposes after a specified period, usually of 6 months. The sanction will explain that there is a right of appeal.
If the employee’s first misconduct is sufficiently serious, it may be appropriate to move directly to a final written warning. This may occur where the employee’s actions have had, or are liable to have, a serious or harmful impact upon the College. The Human Resources Department will be involved in this decision.
Where the misconduct is sufficiently serious, or if there is further significant or related misconduct or a failure to improve during the period of a prior warning, subject to confirmation at a disciplinary hearing, a final written warning will be communicated to the employee. This will give details of the complaint, the improvement required and the timescale required for improvement. It will also warn that a failure to improve may lead to dismissal or some other action short of dismissal, for example a transfer to a different work area or different working pattern. A copy of this final written warning will be kept by the College but will be disregarded for disciplinary purposes after a specified period, usually 12 months, subject to the employee achieving and sustaining satisfactory conduct. The sanction will explain that there is a right of appeal.
Following a formal written warning, if there is further related misconduct or a failure to improve, subject to confirmation at a disciplinary hearing, dismissal will be considered. The decision to dismiss will only be taken by a senior manager of the College, for example the College Secretary or nominee, or the Executive Dean of a School. The employee will be provided in writing with reasons for dismissal and the date on which the employment will terminate. This will include the right of appeal.
There will be some examples of behaviour that are so serious in themselves or have such serious consequences that they may call for dismissal without notice or payment in lieu of notice, even for a first breach of conduct. This would only result in cases of gross misconduct involving a fair and consistent application of the College’s disciplinary and dismissal procedure being followed in all circumstances.
All employees have a right of appeal against any formal action in the disciplinary and dismissal procedure. An appeal must be made in writing to the Head of HR Services within 5 working days of the date of the disciplinary sanction letter.
Grounds for appeal are where the employee believes:
• The sanction to be unfair or unreasonably severe; or
• Substantial new and relevant information related to the case is available; or
• There is evidence indicating the procedure was not properly applied.
Appeals will be heard without unreasonable delay. The appeal will be considered by a senior manager who will take the role of Chair of the appeal meeting. The meeting will include a representative from the Human Resources Department. Where possible the appeal will be chaired by a nominee of the College senior to the Chair of the disciplinary meeting. In all cases the nominated Chair will be a senior manager from a different Department who has not been previously involved in the case. The Human Resources representative will also be a different person from the person who participated in the previous meeting.
The appeal meeting will consider the disciplinary sanction imposed. The appeal panel can uphold or reject the appeal; modify or remove the sanction where justified. Employees have a right to be accompanied at appeal meetings. Employees will be informed in writing of the outcome of the appeal meeting within 5 working days of the meeting. The decision of the Chair of the appeal meeting is final.
There disciplinary action is being considered against an employee who is a trade union representative, the normal disciplinary and dismissal procedure will be followed. Discussion of the matter at an early stage will take place with an official employed by the union, after obtaining the employee’s agreement and prior to any proposed disciplinary hearing. The employee can be accompanied by an official of the union.
If an employee is charged with, or convicted of, a criminal offence, this is not normally in itself a reason for disciplinary action. Consideration will be given to what effect the charge or conviction has on the employee’s suitability to do their job and what impact this may have on their relationship with the College, work colleagues and customers.
Where an employee raises a grievance during a disciplinary process, the disciplinary process may be temporarily suspended in order to deal with the grievance. Where the grievance and disciplinary cases are related, it may be appropriate to deal with both issues concurrently. Depending on the nature of the grievance, the employer may need to consider bringing in another manager to consider the grievance process separately but concurrently.
• Acas Code of Practice – Disciplinary and Grievance Procedures 2008
• Dignity at Work and Study Policy
• Sickness Absence Policy
• Capability (Performance) Policy
• Grievance Procedure
|Policy:||Disciplinary and Dismissal Procedure|
|Applicable to:||All Staff, except academic staff and employees completing probation.|
|Date last reviewed:||January 2010|
|Policy Management:||Human Resources|
|Approved by Governors:|
Employees have the right to be accompanied by a companion to investigation meetings and formal disciplinary meetings where the resultant action could be:
• a written warning being issued; this could be either first or final warning;
• some other disciplinary action or sanction;
• the confirmation of a warning or some other disciplinary action, for example at an appeal meeting.
The chosen companion may be a work colleague or a trade union representative. External legal advisors are not permitted to be involved in internal College disciplinary matters.
Although the employee has the right to be accompanied by a companion at a formal disciplinary meeting, there may be situations where a conflict of interest arises.
For example, it would not normally be reasonable for employees to insist on being accompanied by a companion whose presence would prejudice the meeting or who might have a conflict of interest.
Advice and guidance from Human Resources should be sought where a conflict of interest is evident.
It is important that the role of the companion is clearly understood. Outlined below are examples of activity that will help this understanding.
• address the meeting;
• present and summarise the case on behalf of the employee;
• respond to any views expressed;
• confer with the employee during the meeting;
• request adjournments.
• answer questions on the employee’s behalf;
• address the meeting if the employee does not wish it;
• prevent the representative of the College from explaining the case.
An independent third party or mediator can sometimes help resolve disciplinary issues. Mediation is a voluntary process where the mediator helps two or more people in dispute to attempt to reach an agreement. Any agreement comes from those in dispute, not from the mediator. The mediator is not there to judge, to say one person is right and the other wrong, or to tell those involved in the mediation what they should do. The mediator is in charge of the process of seeking to resolve the problem but not the outcome.
Mediation is appropriate in specific circumstances. It is not a means to absolve managers of their responsibilities. Mediators may be employees of the College who are trained and accredited by an external mediation service to act as internal mediators in addition to their normal jobs. Alternatively, they may be from an external mediation provider. They can work individually or in pairs as co-mediators. Where mediation is used during a disciplinary procedure, the formal process will be temporarily suspended pending the outcome of the mediation.
There are no hard-and-fast rules for when mediation is appropriate but it can be used:
• for conflict involving colleagues of a similar job or grade, or between a manager and a member of their staff;
• at any stage in the conflict as long as any ongoing formal procedures are temporarily held in abeyance;
• to rebuild relationships after a formal dispute has been resolved;
• to address a range of issues, including relationship breakdown; personality clashes; communication problems; and minor infringement of the Dignity at Work and Study policy.
In some situations, the combination of disciplinary and grievance issues can become blurred. The College may prefer to tackle the underlying relationship issues by means of mediation. In such cases the manager of the manager may be called to intervene and to facilitate agreement as to the appropriate course of action.
Mediation may not be suitable if:
• the grounds for misconduct are manifestly clear and mediation would serve no useful purpose;
• used as a first resort, because people should be encouraged to speak to each other and talk to their manager before they seek a solution via mediation;
• it is used by a manager to avoid their managerial responsibilities;
• a decision about right or wrong is needed, for example where there is possible criminal activity;
• an individual is raising a complaint under the College’s Dignity at Work and Study policy that warrants formal investigation;
• the parties do not have the power to settle the issue;
• one side is completely intransigent and using mediation will only raise unrealistic expectations of a positive outcome.
The following are examples of the sort of breaches of conduct, other than gross misconduct, which could lead to disciplinary action. The list is not exhaustive or exclusive:
• any minor infringement of the College’s Dignity at Work and Study commitments;
• failure to comply with reasonable management instructions or requests;
• persistent, unsatisfactory time-keeping and poor attendance;
• careless destruction or waste of College property and/or failure to report such;
• unauthorised absence;
• minor breach of confidentiality (e.g. disclosure of confidential information to a person not authorised to receive it);
• minor breach of College safety regulations or rules;
• minor breach of the Financial Regulations;
• minor breach of College rules about e-mail, web usage or other computer usage procedures;
• minor incapacity to perform the duties of the post due to the influence of alcohol, drugs or other intoxicating substances;
• rudeness to colleagues, students, contractors or visitors;
• minor breach of a specified condition of employment.
The following are examples of conduct which the College will take extremely seriously. The list is not exhaustive or exclusive, however, the following will be considered as acts of gross misconduct:
• any form of harassment or bullying relating to race, creed, colour, nationality, ethnic origin, age, language, religion or similar belief, political or other opinion, affiliation, gender, gender reassignment, sexual orientation, marital status, disability, national or social origin, birth or other status, membership or non- membership of a trade union;
• the victimisation of someone because they have complained (whether formally or otherwise) that someone has been bullying or harassing them or someone else;
• serious or wilful failure to comply with the College’s Equality and Diversity policy;
• threatening behaviour or the use of physical violence or gross abuse against any member of, or visitor to, the College, or any other authorised person present on College property;
• serious insubordination or refusal, without reasonable cause, to carry out a legitimate instruction given by an authorised member of staff;
• wilful negligence or disregard of duties or instructions relating to employment;
• negligence resulting in serious loss, damage or injury;
• wilful and serious breach of the College’s health and safety rules, regulations or instructions;
• serious breach of the College’s Financial Regulations;
• serious breach of College rules about e-mail, the internet or other computer usage procedures, including the downloading or deliberate accessing of pornographic, offensive or obscene material;
• wilful and serious breach of confidentiality;
• forgery involving the deliberate falsification of documents or other materials;
• the acceptance of bribes;
• use for personal gain of confidential information obtained by an employee during the course of employment;
• theft or unauthorised removal of property belonging to the College or one of its employees or visitors;
• receipt of property known to be the stolen property of the College, its employees or a visitor to the College;
• wilful damage to any property within the precincts of the College, irrespective of ownership;
• serious incapacity to work due to being under the influence of alcohol or non-prescription drugs or other intoxicating substances, where conduct could endanger staff, students or the public. In such cases, where possible, a medical doctor will be asked to make an assessment of the staff member’s health or state of mind;
• criminal conviction, the subject of which has a direct bearing on an employee’s suitability to do the job and their relationship with their College, work colleagues and customers. Please refer to paragraph 18 of the Disciplinary and Dismissal Procedure - Special Cases;
• unauthorised entry into an area of the College, or premises on which its courses are delivered, which is specifically barred or where a clear notice to this effect is displayed.