The Statutory Disciplinary and Dismissal Procedures were introduced by The Employment (NI) Order 2003 (Dispute Resolution) Regulations (NI) 2004, and further guidance is provided by the Labour Relations Agency’s Code of Practice on Disciplinary and Grievance Procedures.
In short, the standard Disciplinary and Dismissal procedure can be categorised into three steps (although it is prudent that, where possible, an initial investigation is carried out before the disciplinary process is initiated).
Step 1- Statement for Grounds of action and invitation to meeting
The employer must write to the employee, confirming that it intends to take disciplinary action and setting out the alleged conduct of the employee, characteristics, or other circumstances which led it to contemplate dismissing or taking the disciplinary action.
The employer should allow the employee a reasonable opportunity to consider the allegations and must invite the employee to attend a meeting to discuss the matter. The employee has the right to be accompanied at such a meeting by either a fellow employee or a Trade Union Representative, and should be advised of this right in the invitation letter. The possible outcome of the meeting should also be confirmed.
Step 2 – The Disciplinary Meeting
The employee is to take all reasonable steps to attend the meeting, failing which it may proceed in his/her absence. However, the meeting must occur before any disciplinary action is taken.
If the employee is unable to attend the meeting for medical reasons, then he/she should provide evidence of this to the employer. The employer may then reschedule to a time when the employee is likely to be fit, and it may wish to ascertain its own medical/occupational health advice as to when the employee may be fit.
After the meeting, the employer must inform the employee of its decision in writing and the grounds for same. In said letter, the employee should be offered the right to appeal this decision.
Step 3 - Appeal
If the employee wishes to appeal the outcome of the disciplinary meeting, the employee must inform the employer in writing.
The employer must then invite the employee to attend an appeal meeting, and again, the employee is to take all reasonable steps to attend. The employee has the right to be accompanied by a work colleague or a Trade Union Representative at the appeal meeting, and should be advised of this right in the invitation to the appeal meeting.
Again, if the employee cannot attend the meeting for medical reasons, evidence of this should be provided, and the meeting rescheduled to a time when the employee is likely to be fit. The employer may wish to obtain its own medical evidence in this regard.
The outcome of the appeal must then be communicated to the employee in writing.
Of note, should either party fail to adhere to the Statutory Disciplinary and Dismissal Procedures, this could result in an Industrial Tribunal award being adjusted to reflect the failure.