Disciplinary Procedure

INTRODUCTION

1. This document sets out the requirements of the disciplinary procedures.

SCOPE AND PURPOSE

2. This procedure applies to all members of staff, the procedure for Senior Posts holders being in accordance with the College’s Articles of Government.

3. A central aim of this procedure is to ensure consistent and fair treatment or all in relation to disciplinary concern(s).

4. This procedure does not apply to dismissals due to redundancy, retirement (for employee’s aged 65 years or above) and non-renewal of fixed term contracts on their expiry.

5. This procedure will be applied in accordance with the Articles of Government of the Corporation and in accordance with the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service’s, ‘Discipline and Grievance Code of Practice’.

6. Where alternatives are appropriate every effort will be made to avoid the use of formal disciplinary and action, whether this is through informal action or via other procedures.

GENERAL PROVISIONS

7. If an employee has any special needs, these will be accommodated where practicable.

8. The Human Resources and Developmental Department will be involved in all stages of the procedure in an advisory capacity.

9. In the interest of ensuring that disciplinary matters are resolved as speedily as possible time limits are given throughout this procedure. These are for guidance. If it is not practicable to adhere to these time limits, they may be amended, ideally by mutual agreement. Due regard will be given to the personal circumstances of all parties involved in the procedure.

10. All matters relating to this procedure should be treated as confidential by all those concerned.

11. It is recognised that disciplinary action against a trade union officer could be seen as an attack on the union’s functions. Although normal standards will apply to their conduct as to other employees, no formal action should be taken without the involvement of a full-time regional official.

INFORMAL ACTION

Dealing with matters on a one-to-one basis

12. In line with normal practice, managers should in the first instance deal with minor concern(s) informally. The best way to address a minor concern is to discuss the matter(s) causing concern with the employee on a one-to-one basis. In most cases this will result in an improvement. Where the one-to-one discussion has not worked or if the manager determines that the matter has gone beyond the one-to-one stage then the manager should consider conducting a guidance meeting.

Guidance Meeting

13. Where the manager determines that a guidance meeting is necessary the employee will be sent a letter outlining the area(s) of concern and inviting them to attend the guidance meeting. At the guidance meeting the employee is entitled to be accompanied by a trade union representative or a work colleague whose attendance they should arrange. The purpose of the guidance interview is to discuss the identified area(s) of concern and to ensure that the employee receives the necessary help and support to improve. At the guidance meeting a timescale will be set for improvements and review. The outcome of the guidance meeting will normally be confirmed in writing within 10 working days.

INVESTIGATIONS

14. Concerns should not be progressed to the formal steps of the procedure until the relevant facts of the case have been established. This may be achieved through an investigation or by an acceptance of the relevant facts by the employee concerned. In certain circumstances the facts may have been established over a period of time such as attendance or timekeeping records.

15. There may be a need to conduct a preliminary investigation. In more serious cases where the preliminary investigation identifies that further investigation is required then a formal investigation will be commissioned by a Commissioning Officer (senior manager) who will appoint an Investigating Officer. If the employee objects on reasonable grounds to the individual identified as the Investigating Officer every effort will be made to identify an alternative member of staff.

PAID LEAVE – EVALUATION PERIOD/SUSPENSION

16. Only when a manager becomes aware of potentially very serious concern(s) that could be construed to constitute gross misconduct should they consider the option of sending the employee home on paid leave for a maximum of 5 working days. This evaluation period will allow the manager to consider all the available evidence before recommending what action should be taken. During the evaluation period the manager should complete their preliminary investigation. At the conclusion of the evaluation period, it may be possible for the employee to return to work for the completion of the disciplinary process. However, where management continue to have an ongoing concern of potential gross misconduct the employee would be suspended on full pay pending the completion of the disciplinary process.

APPEALING THE SUSPENSION

17. After 15 working days of suspension and unless the matter has proceeded to the formal stages of the disciplinary procedure, the employee will have a right to raise an appeal about their continued suspension.

18. To ensure that the suspension does not continue past 15 days, the appeal letter must be sent to the Head of the Human Resources and Development Department by the 12th working day of the suspension period. The appeal will then be considered by the Principal or his/her nominee.

FORMAL ACTION

Disciplinary Hearing/Appeal

19. Employees should be given at least 5 working days’ notice of any hearing. The details of the hearing will be confirmed in writing, with the alleged concerns under consideration and the possible actions clearly stated.

20. An employee has the right to be present and accompanied by a representative of a trade union or work colleague at all hearings.

21. Where an employee chooses to be accompanied, management should be informed of the name of the trade union representative or work colleague accompanying them at least 2 working days before the date of the hearing.

22. Appeal hearings should follow the same requirements as outlined above, therefore where ‘hearing’ is stated this should be read as appeal hearing when the matter has progressed to the appeal hearing stage.

Warnings

23. Normally, the procedure will be followed in the order of the stages set out below. However, offences of a serious nature may be brought into the procedure at any stage, if any earlier stage would not be appropriate. For example, there may be occasions when the concern(s) raised are considered not to be so serious as to justify dismissal, but serious enough to warrant a written warning which will be both the first and final written warning. At every stage of the procedure, the employee will be advised of the nature of the concern(s) raised and will be given the opportunity to prepare and state their case at a hearing before any decision is taken.

24. The warning will be spent, and will be removed from the employee’s file, after the time limit specified. Where a warning has not expired and a further hearing is required the existing warning will be taken into consideration when deciding the outcome of that hearing.

25. If the manager feels that further warnings are unlikely to produce any improvements then they can at that time move straight to dismissal which is stage 3 of the procedure.

Additional Action

26. When considering the actions of the employee all options should be explored before reaching a decision that dismissal is the appropriate sanction. Additional actions should only be taken when the concern(s) are of a serious nature. The additional action(s) outlined below may be taken where it is necessary to impress upon the employee the seriousness of their actions and/or to make good any losses suffered by the College as a result of the conduct of the employee, and as a means of avoiding the dismissal of the employee: In cases involving financial loss, deductions will be made from the employee’s pay proportionate to the offence committed.

Removal of certain responsibilities of the role for the period of the warning.

Demotion where this is an alternative to dismissal. It will only be a practical option where there is a post available and the employee is judged capable of carrying out that work of the new post.

Any other sanction as would be proportionate and appropriate to the circumstances of the individual case.

Dismissals

  1. A stage 3 dismissal will be confirmed in writing within 5 working days and will specify the reasons for dismissal, the date on which the employment will end, and the right of appeal against the dismissal or the notice of dismissal. In most cases payment in lieu of notice will be made with the effective date of termination being the date specified in the letter confirming the decision to dismiss.
    Summary Dismissal
  2. Where the employee is summarily dismissed this will be without notice or payment in lieu of notice and will be confirmed to the employee in writing within 5 working days, specifying the reasons for the dismissal and the right of appeal against this decision, the effective date of termination being the date specified in the letter confirming the decision to dismiss.
    APPEALS AGAINST DISMISSAL, SANCTION AND/OR ADDITIONAL
    ACTIONS
  3. An employee who wishes to appeal the decision taken at any stage of the formal procedure should write to the Head of the Human Resources and Development Department within 10 working days from the date on the letter setting out the outcome of the disciplinary hearing. The employee’s appeal letter must specify the grounds for appeal. The grounds for appeal
    will fall within one or more of the following areas:
    Grounds for Appeal Reasons
    Non-compliance with the Procedural Requirements: The process leading to disciplinary action was unfair because the disciplinary procedure was not followed.
    Unjustified findings: The findings of fact do not support the decision reached at the hearing.
    New evidence: Since the conclusion of the disciplinary hearing new evidence has come to light that materially effects the decision taken.
    Harshness of the penalty or additional action: The actions taken were too harsh given all the circumstances.
  4. The relevant senior manager will conduct an appeal hearing as soon as possible normally within 10 working days after the appeal letter has been received.
  5. The senior manager conducting the appeal hearing will be someone who has not been involved at any earlier stage in dealing with the concern(s) raised in relation to the employee’s conduct.
  6. At the appeal, the formal sanction/additional action taken will be reviewed, but cannot be increased. The appeal hearing decision will be notified to the employee in writing normally within 10 working days of the appeal hearing. The appeal hearing decision is final.
    OVERLAPPING GRIEVANCE AND DISCIPLINARY CASES
  7. 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.
    ADVICE NOTES
  8. Advice notes provide detailed guidance on how to conduct the various aspects involved in the disciplinary process. A list of advice notes are detailed below:
    Guidance Meeting
    Advice Note – Guidance Meeting
    Investigations
    Advice Note – Commissioning Officer
    Advice Note – Preliminary Investigation
    Advice Note – Investigating Officer
    Paid Leave – Evaluation Period/Suspension
    Advice Note – Paid leave and Suspension
    Appealing the Suspension
    Advice Note – Paid leave and Suspension
    Disciplinary Hearing/Appeal
    Advice Note – Chairing a Formal Hearing
    Advice Note – Chairing a Formal Appeal Hearing