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How can organisations with a small workforce carry out hearings and appeals fairly?

Small organisations face unique challenges when it comes to disciplinary and grievance procedures, just by nature of their size. One problem for organisations with a small pool of staff is finding different managers to investigate, chair meetings and oversee appeals.

If the matter ever reaches an employment tribunal, an organisation has to show that it has acted in the fairest manner allowed for by the circumstances. No employee is going to be reassured by finding the same manager acting as investigator, judge and jury - increasingly the likelihood of the whole matter being taken further. A tribunal is unlikely to consider this a fair process either.

An investigative report of good quality can give a new manager the confidence to handle the subsequent meeting in full possession of the facts. An independent HR consultant could also be brought in to support the hearing. Some small organisations have found it useful to include the investigator on the disciplinary panel, but in a consultative rather than executive role, not being allowed to make decisions.

Appeals are best heard by a more senior manager than whoever dealt with the original issue. Again, this can be tricky for small organisations. If there is no more senior manager available, another manager should be chosen where possible. Alternatively, the owner or board of trustees could hear the appeal, doing their best to be as impartial as possible.

As well as authoring the Discipline and grievance - Acas Code of Practice, Acas has published Discipline and grievances at work: The Acas guide which includes information with special relevance to small organisations.

Acas also offers training in how to manage Discipline and grievance as well as mock employment tribunal sessions (listed on the Dispute resolution page). Visit the Acas Training and Business Solutions area for more information.

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