Law guide: Employment

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Appealing disciplinary action

Appealing disciplinary action

Right of appeal

The opportunity to appeal against a disciplinary decision is essential, and appeals may be raised by employees on any number of grounds, for instance, new evidence, undue severity or inconsistency of the penalty. The appeal may either be a review of the disciplinary sanction or a re-hearing depending on the grounds of the appeal.

An appeal must never be used as an opportunity to punish the employee for appealing the original decision, and it should not result in any increase in penalty.

What should an appeals procedure contain?

It should:

  • Specify a time-limit within which the appeal should be lodged
  • Provide for appeals to be dealt with speedily, particularly those involving suspension or dismissal
  • Wherever possible provide for the appeal to be heard by someone senior in authority to the person who took the disciplinary decision and, if possible, someone who was not involved in the original meeting or decision
  • Spell out what action may be taken by those hearing the appeal
  • Set out the right to be accompanied at any appeal meeting
  • Provide that the employee, or a companion if the employee so wishes, has an opportunity to comment on any new evidence arising during the appeal before any decision is taken

Small organisations

In small organisations, even if there is no more senior manager available, another manager should, if possible, hear the appeal. If this is not possible, consider whether the owner or, in the case of a charity, the board of trustees, should hear the appeal. Whoever hears the appeal should consider it as impartially as possible.

How should an appeal hearing be conducted?

Before the appeal ensure that the individual knows when and where it is to be held, and of their statutory right to be accompanied. Hold the meeting in a place which will be free from interruptions. Make sure the relevant records and notes of the original meeting are available for all concerned.

At the meeting

You should:

  • Introduce those present to each other, explaining their presence if necessary
  • Explain the purpose of the meeting, how it will be conducted, and the powers the person/people hearing the appeal have
  • Ask the employee why they are appealing
  • Pay particular attention to any new evidence that has been introduced, and ensure the employee has the opportunity to comment on it
  • Once the relevant issues have been thoroughly explored, summarise the facts and call an adjournment to consider the decision
  • Change a previous decision if it becomes apparent that it was not soundly based. If the decision is overturned, consider whether training for managers needs to be improved, if rules need clarification, or if there other implications to be considered
  • Inform the employee of the results of the appeal and the reasons for the decision and confirm it in writing. Make it clear, if this is the case, that this decision is final.

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