How to handle appeals of disciplinary decisions

There are a number of key ingredients to a fair disciplinary procedure and the appeal is an important component which employers often forget about. 

It’s important to handle employee misconduct with care and get the disciplinary procedure right to avoid pesky claims of unfair dismissal. So to mitigate the risks of claims of this kind, make sure you investigate the matter, inform the employee of the issue, hold a disciplinary hearing, allow them to be accompanied, let them respond to the allegations and give them the chance to appeal.

How to handle appeals

An employee who has formal disciplinary action taken against them should be given an opportunity to appeal, whether this be a warning, dismissal or some other form of permitted sanction.

Therefore, if an employee thinks that the decision you have made is unfair or unreasonable, they should inform you that they are appealing the decision and provide you with the exact reasons for the appeal in writing. The grounds for appeal may be wide-ranging, for example, they may argue that new evidence has emerged; they think that the sanction imposed on them was disproportionate to the misconduct committed or you acted differently in similar cases committed by other employees in the past.

In your disciplinary rules, it is suggested that you specify a deadline for bringing an appeal, for example, employees must appeal within 5-10 working days from being informed of the disciplinary sanction.

If you receive an appeal from an employee, it should be handled without unreasonable delay. You should set the date for the hearing and remind them of their right to be accompanied by a colleague or trade union representative.

Ideally, the person responsible for the appeal should be someone who has not been involved during any of the previous stages (i.e. the investigation or the disciplinary hearing) and be more senior to the person who made the decision that is being appealed. If your organisation is very small, contact your Employment Law Adviser to discuss your best options.

There are two types of appeal hearings. The first is a review of the decision that has been made and the second is a complete rehearing. The format of the appeal will depend on the grounds for the appeal.

Remember that as annoyed as you may be at having to carry out an appeal, it should not be used as a way to punish the employee or increase their sanction.

Once the appeal has concluded, you should inform them of the decision in writing and make it clear to them that this decision is final.

Need some help?

If you need to commence disciplinary procedures for employee misconduct, contact your Ellis Whittam Employment Law Adviser who can assist you.

Director of Legal Services

James Tamm

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