Fairness in Disciplinary Meetings

Many employees facing a workplace Disciplinary meeting organised by their employer are justifiably worried about it, and in many cases, do not know what their legal rights are in this regard.

Many employees have a feeling that they are in uncharted territory when facing these meetings.

The balance of power in an employee-employer relationship is heavily on the employers side, in our opinion. 

Who pays the piper calls the tune comes to mind.

Repeatedly we are seeing that employers who have an issue with a staff member, think they are acting decisively by rushing a disciplinary procedure, when in fact they are reacting emotionally and irrationally to a situation.

An employee has legal rights when it comes to Fair Procedures and Fair Disciplinary procedures at work. If an employer does not paid heed to the law and implement fair and rational procedures, and fairness in their decision-making, they are exposing themselves to legal actions being taking by employees.

Employees Legal Rights to Fair Procedures

It is well established in law at this stage that an employee has not only Contractual, but also Constitutional and Statutory entitlements to fair procedures in the workplace. This means an employer is obliged to be and act fair in their dealings with an employee when they wish to take an employee to task over some issue.

S.I. No. 146/2000 – Industrial Relations Act, 1900 (Code of Practice on Grievance and Disciplinary Procedures) (Declaration) Order, 2000

The above-mentioned Code of Practice provides clear and simple guidelines for employers to follow.

At the very least, an employer should have a clearly written Disciplinary Procedure in place. This will benefit both the employee and the employer. What happens frequently is that an employer reacts to a situation and fails to follow the steps in their own published Grievance Procedure.

Some appropriate elements of a fair disciplinary procedure are as follows:

  • The employer’s grievance with an employee must be dealt with by the employer in accordance with the principles of basic fairness and natural justice. Everyone knows what fairness means. Any grievance and disciplinary procedure an employer has should be given to the employee at the outset of their employment.
  • An employee is fully entitled to having their own grievances examined in a fair manner.
  • An employer cannot demand an employee attend a disciplinary meeting, without firstly furnishing details of the specific allegations to the employee in advance of the meeting. It is insufficient and unfair for an employer to not do this. Many employers send a letter to the employee regarding their requirement to attend a disciplinary meeting, and then intentionally furnish no detail in that letter of the allegation to the employee in advance of the meeting. Employees have every right to know of  specifics of the allegations coming against them. Details include dates, times, persons present etc. 
  • An employee must be given the opportunity to respond to the allegations.
  • An employee is entitled to be represented at the disciplinary meeting.
  • Impartiality must be adopted by the employer while implementing the disciplinary procedure. There must be no bias or prejudice involved. In essence an employee is entitled to a fair hearing.
  • The employee should be told who made the allegation in the first place.
  • The employee should be afforded the opportunity to question the witnesses.

Disclaimer

Please be advised that the above-mentioned material is intended as an overview and as a broad out-line of the topic discussed. It should not be considered as complete and comprehensive legal advice, nor act as an appropriate substitute. Legal advice should be sought from a solicitor prior to relying on anything in this article.

Due care has been taken in the publication of this article and we do not accept legal liability as a result of reliance on any material covered in the above article.