Step 4: The hearing - Disciplinary procedure

Step 4: The hearing

Where the investigation shows the employee has a case to answer, the employer should ask them to a disciplinary meeting or 'hearing'. This is a meeting where the employer hears all the evidence before making a decision.

Preparing for the hearing

The hearing should be held as soon as possible after the investigation, while giving reasonable time for the employee to prepare.

In good time before the hearing, the employer should put in writing to the employee:

  • the alleged misconduct or performance issue
  • any evidence from the investigation
  • any other information they plan to talk about
  • the date, time and location of the hearing
  • information on the employee's right to be accompanied to the hearing
  • the possible outcomes

Employers can use our letter templates for giving an employee notice of a disciplinary hearing.

The employee can also bring evidence to the hearing, for example emails, to show and talk about.

The right to be accompanied

By law, an employee or worker can bring a 'companion' (relevant person) with them to a disciplinary hearing. This is called 'the right to be accompanied'.

Who the employee can bring with them

The employee must choose their companion from one of the following:

  • someone they work with
  • a workplace trade union representative who's certified by their union to act as a companion
  • an official employed by a trade union

Under discrimination law, employers must make reasonable adjustments for disabled employees. This might mean allowing someone else to attend, for example a support worker or someone with knowledge of the disability and its effects.

Employers can, but do not have to, allow companions who do not fall within the above categories. For example, some employment contracts might allow for a professional support body, partner or legal representative.

Requesting a companion

If the employee wants to bring a companion, they should make a 'reasonable request' to their employer.

To make a reasonable request, the employee should:

  • tell their employer the name of the companion and whether they're a colleague or a trade union representative
  • give their employer enough notice, so they can make arrangements for the companion to attend the meeting

The companion should also be given enough time to prepare for the meeting, for example to look at any evidence.

What happens in a disciplinary hearing

The hearing is the chance for both the employer and the employee to state their case. The employer, employee and employee’s companion should make every effort to attend.

The employer should:

  • explain the employee's alleged misconduct or performance issue
  • go through the evidence
  • make sure someone takes notes

The employee should be given the chance to:

  • set out their case
  • answer any allegations
  • ask questions
  • show evidence
  • call relevant witnesses (with good notice)
  • respond to any information given by witnesses
  • choose if their companion can speak for them at the hearing

The employee's companion should be allowed to:

  • set out the employee's case
  • respond for the employee to any comments or points made at the meeting
  • talk with the employee during the hearing
  • take notes
  • sum up the employee's case at the end of the hearing

The employer may agree to allow the companion to answer questions on behalf of the employee. But this is not a legal requirement.

For more details on holding disciplinary hearings, you can use the Acas guide to discipline and grievances at work.

At the end of the hearing

It's a good idea for the employer to take some time after the hearing to consider the case carefully before making a decision.

The employer should:

  • tell the employee what happens next and give a timeframe
  • take a written confidential record of the hearing

If the employee is absent or off sick

If the employee is absent or off sick for the disciplinary hearing, the employer should pause the disciplinary procedure until they return to work.

If the employee still says they cannot attend or if they go on extended sick leave, the employer should see if it would help to make other arrangements.

For example, if the employee is off with stress and is worried about coming to the workplace, they could hold the hearing somewhere else.

If the employee still refuses to or cannot meet, the employer will need to look at the case and come to a reasonable decision.

The employer could look at:

  • any rules their organisation has for dealing with failure to attend disciplinary hearings
  • how their organisation dealt with similar cases in the past
  • the seriousness of the disciplinary issue
  • the employee's disciplinary record, general work record, work experience, position and length of service
  • getting a medical opinion on whether the employee is fit to attend the hearing (with the employee's permission)

If the employer reaches a decision, they should tell the employee in writing and tell them of their right of appeal.

You can find more details in Appendix 4: Dealing with absence in the Acas guide to discipline and grievances at work.

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