Disciplinary procedure

Purpose

  • The aim of this procedure is to help to maintain the required standards of conduct, behaviour and attendance throughout the University, and to ensure that any disciplinary action is applied consistently and fairly.

Scope

  • The procedure applies to all employees of the University other than the Vice-Chancellor and the Registrar.

Principles

  • Disciplinary matters will be dealt with quickly and equitably.
  • No disciplinary action will be taken until the matter has been fully investigated.
  • At each stage, the employee will be advised fully of the nature of the complaint.
  • An employee has the right to be accompanied by a fellow employee, friend or trade union representative at each stage of the formal procedure. If an employee nominates a representative to support him/her through the disciplinary procedure, all correspondence will be copied to the representative.
  • Employee will only be dismissed for a first breach of discipline in cases of gross misconduct.
  • Employees have the right to appeal against any disciplinary action.
  • The procedure may be initiated at any stage as appropriate to the circumstances of the alleged misconduct.
  • The University’s normal disciplinary standards apply equally to trade union representatives. However, no formal disciplinary action will be taken against an employee who is an accredited Trade Union representative until the circumstances of the case have been discussed with the local senior official of the Union concerned, or the appropriate full-time regional official.
  • Standards of confidentiality will be maintained and any documentation relating to the case, including witness statements, will only be made available to those directly involved in the investigation and the disciplinary hearing(s).
  • The Director or Deputy Director of Human Resources must be kept informed of progress through all the formal stages of the disciplinary procedure and may offer advice and/or guidance to staff involved in order to maintain consistency and fairness within the procedures on behalf of the University.
  • It is a serious disciplinary offence to encourage any employee to make a misleading statement or to withhold evidence in the course of any disciplinary case.

Mediation

If during the disciplinary process both parties feel that there would be value in seeking mediation then this can be considered.

  • The University has a number of staff trained as mediators who are available to mediate between employees with a view to identifying a mutually acceptable resolution of the issues involved. Requests for the involvement of a mediator should be made to the Dean/Director.
  • Mediators will use their skills to assist, but will not dictate, monitor or enforce any agreement. A record of the agreement will only be kept if both parties consent to it.

For more information please see the Staff guide to mediation.

Authority to take formal Disciplinary Action

  • Only Deans/Directors and their nominated deputies are authorised to initiate formal disciplinary action. Disciplinary action against a Pro-Vice Chancellor, Dean or Director may be initiated by the Vice-Chancellor or the Registrar. A recommendation to dismiss an employee must be approved by the Vice-Chancellor or a nominated deputy.

Addressing disciplinary issues prior to the use of the Formal Procedure

When a manager has concerns about a member of staff, they may wish initially to consult more senior colleagues and the link HR Business Partner about the most appropriate means of dealing with the perceived problem.

The manager will then:

  • let the employee know the nature of the perceived problems and the date and time of a meeting to discuss how they should be addressed.
  • In cases of minor breaches of discipline, the employee’s manager will discuss their concerns with the employee.
  • The purpose of this discussion is to ensure that the employee is:
    • aware of the concerns;
    • knows what is required to meet expected standards;
    • made aware of the timescale over which an improvement is required and
    • made aware of the possible consequences of not achieving the required standard.
  • Appropriate additional action at this stage may include the provision of:

    • support and training;
    • advice and guidance;
    • mentoring;
    • counselling;
    • monitoring and feedback on a pre-determined schedule and/or
    • an informal oral warning - this is an explanation by the line manager as to why aspects of the conduct/behaviour was unacceptable.  This explanation may include an instruction not to repeat this conduct/behaviour and advise that further repetition may result in formal action.  This should then be confirmed in writing.
  • The terms of the discussion, the outcomes and any additional actions will be confirmed in writing to the employee by the line manager.

Formal procedure

Suspension

  • An employee may be suspended by the Director or Deputy Director of Human Resources on standard pay during an investigation into a disciplinary issue, in circumstances where the presence of the employee in the workplace during the period of the investigation might prejudice the investigation; or where there are difficulties in the relationship between the employee and other people (e.g. colleagues, students etc.) with whom they would normally expect to come into contact in the workplace, which would be exacerbated by continuing to work in close proximity; or where the safety of staff and the University’s duty of care to its employees may be compromised by the presence of the employee at work.
  • It is important to note that:
    • a suspension from duty is not a pre-judgement of guilt and is not a disciplinary penalty;
    • a suspension can only be imposed (and lifted) by the Director or Deputy Director of Human Resources;
    • the reasons for the suspension must be stated clearly to the employee in writing;
    • the period of suspension will be as brief as possible and will be kept under weekly review and
    • any restrictions on access to the University, its facilities or other employees in the workplace during the period of suspension, will be specified in the letter of notification, and any such restrictions will only be imposed in order to secure as objective and unprejudiced environment as possible for the investigation and/or to minimise potential difficulties in relationships with other people with whom they would normally expect to come into contact at work. Employees will always be entitled to contact their trade union representative during a suspension.
  • In circumstances where it is necessary to protect the University's interests (e.g. for reasons of safety or financial probity), and where the Director or Deputy Director of Human Resources is not available to suspend an employee, the Registrar may instruct the employee to leave the place of work, and stay away until further notice. This will be reported to the Director or Deputy Director of Human Resources as soon as possible so that they can determine whether the employee should be formally suspended.
  • In exceptional circumstances, the Director or Deputy Director of Human Resources and the relevant Dean or Director may move an employee from their normal place of work during the period of the investigation in order to facilitate a more objective investigation. The University will meet any additional transport to work costs involved in such a move.
  • An employee, who is suspended from work or moved from their normal place of work, may appeal in writing, within 72 hours of receiving notice of the decision, to the Registrar, with a copy of the appeal to the Director of Human Resources.

Investigation

  • Where a line manager wishes to initiate formal disciplinary action, he/she will notify the Dean/Director and the link HR Business Partner for the Faculty/Directorate concerned. The Dean/Director will decide whether the matter should proceed to a formal investigation. This formal investigation will be carried out by the HR Business Partnership team and the line manager, (or another investigating manager appointed by the Dean or Director concerned in cases where the line manager is a key witness.)
  • The employee will be informed of the decision to proceed to a formal investigation, the nature of the issues to be investigated, and their right to be supported and accompanied. The employee will be interviewed. This interview will not be a disciplinary hearing, but will be for the purpose of investigating further the basis on which the decision to initiate an investigation has been made.
  • Any witnesses to incidents involved in the investigation and anyone making an allegation against the employee concerned may be interviewed. Formal written and confirmed statements will be obtained from all those interviewed.
  • When the investigation is concluded, the investigating manager and HR Business Partner will decide in the light of the evidence whether:
      • to take no further action;
      • the matter should be dealt with outside the formal disciplinary procedure and
      • the matter should be presented to a formal disciplinary hearing.
  • If there is a disagreement the case will be referred to the Director or Deputy Director of Human Resources for determination.
  • The link HR Business Partner Manager and the investigating manager, or their alternatives who have undertaken the investigation, will present the management side case at the disciplinary hearing.
  • Any Manager or other employee who has been interviewed as part of the disciplinary investigation cannot be a member of the disciplinary panel.

The disciplinary hearing

  • If it is decided that a case should be taken to a disciplinary hearing, the Investigating Officers will advise the employee, his/her representative, the line manager (if they are not one of the Investigating Officers), and the Dean/Director in writing that there will be a hearing under the terms of this procedure and a copy of the procedure will be enclosed. The letter of notification will also include:
    • the date, time and venue of the disciplinary hearing, giving a minimum of five working days notice;
    • the names and job titles of the panel members who will normally be the Director or Deputy Director of Human Resources (as Chair) and another Dean or Director who has had no previous involvement with the case; if the Director or Deputy Director of Human Resources has had to be involved , the other will be the Panel member. If the case relates to an employee in the Directorate of Human Resources, the Registrar (as Chair) and a Dean or Director (other than the Director of Human Resources) will form the panel;
    • the nature of the allegations;
    • the possible outcomes under the disciplinary procedure;
    • all statements from witnesses and other relevant evidence;
    • reference to the right to be accompanied by a fellow employee, friend or a trade union representative and
    • an invitation to make a formal written response to the allegations, to be received by the Director of Human Resources or the Registrar in cases relating to an employee of the Directorate of Human Resources at least two working days before the hearing.
  • The above time limits may be varied by mutual agreement. The employee may ask for the disciplinary hearing to be postponed for up to ten working days if their fellow employee, friend or trade union representative cannot attend on the date proposed. Where an initial proposed date is inconvenient for the employee and/or the representative/friend, management will offer four alternatives within the mutually agreed timescale.
  • The purpose of the disciplinary hearing is to give the employee the opportunity to respond to the findings of the investigation and to the allegations that have been made (Appendix 2).
  • The panel will take one of the following courses of action:
    • dismiss the case and take no further action;
    • give an oral warning, if there has been a minor breach in conduct or behaviour;
    • give a first written warning, if there has been an unsatisfactory response to an oral warning under this procedure, or if there has been a first but serious breach of discipline;
    • give a final written warning if there has been an unsatisfactory response to previous warnings, or if there has been a first and very serious breach of discipline;
    • impose a disciplinary penalty - disciplinary transfer, disciplinary suspension without pay, withholding of incremental progression, or demotion or
    • recommend dismissal.
  • Disciplinary action will normally progress from an oral warning to a written warning and thence to the imposition of more severe penalties. There will however be circumstances where this progression would not be appropriate e.g. management may decide to issue a written warning without having been through an oral warning, and on some occasions, a first and very serious breach of discipline may warrant dismissal.
  • In the event of a disagreement the Chair may exercise a casting vote and the decision letter will record the area of disagreement.

Written Confirmation of the Decision of a Disciplinary Hearing

  • The Director of Human Resources or his/her nominee will inform the employee, in writing, of the decision of a disciplinary panel within five working days of the hearing. The letter will cover:
    • the allegations;
    • any penalty that has been proposed and the reasons for the penalty;
    • any remedial action required of the employee and the consequences of any recurrence of misconduct, including any dates for review;
    • the procedure for exercising the employee’s right of appeal and
    • a confirmation that the warning will be disregarded for further disciplinary purposes after 6 months (for an oral warning),12 months (for a first written warning) or 24 months (for a final written warning), unless there are exceptional circumstances which justify longer or shorter periods and which are explained in the letter of confirmation.
  • Records of formal disciplinary action will be held by the Directorate of Human Resources until the end of the disregard period.

Appeals against decisions short of dismissal

A decision of the panel (other than a recommendation to dismiss) may be appealed to the Registrar. Appeals must be lodged with the Director of Human Resources within five working days of the decision of the panel, and will be considered at a mutually convenient date within 15 working days of receipt.

The Registrar will consider all the written evidence, including the record of the panel hearing. The employee, their representative or friend and the chair of the panel will be asked to meet together with the Registrar to make a submission in support of their respective cases.

The or Registrar may confirm the decision of the panel, substitute an alternative decision, or ask the Director of Human Resources to convene either the same panel or a new panel to re-consider the case.

Dismissal

  • The employee will be notified of this recommendation in writing by the Director of Human Resources (or their nominee). The recommendation will be submitted to the Vice-Chancellor or the nominated deputy, and the employee will be invited to make representations, either in writing or orally, before a decision on the recommendation. The employee has five working days from the notification of the disciplinary panel’s recommendation to notify the Director of Human Resources if he/she wishes to make representations, and the representations will be made within a further ten working days from the date of the notification.
  • In order to come to a decision on the recommendation, the Vice-Chancellor or the nominated deputy will receive the full set of documentation that was available to the members of the Disciplinary Panel, together with any written representations from the employee. If the employee has opted to make oral representations, they will be made through the procedure set out in Appendix 3. Supplementary information may be sought from any of the parties, and any such information shall also be communicated to the employee and the Director of Human Resources.
  • If the recommendation for dismissal is approved, the employee will be notified and informed of the right of appeal. If an appeal is lodged the dismissal does not take effect until the appeal has been heard, but the employee will be suspended without pay from the date of the letter of notification of the Vice-Chancellor’s decision. In the event of a successful appeal any pay that has been withheld will be reinstated.

Appeals

  • An employee has a right of appeal against a decision made under the formal Disciplinary Procedure.
  • The right of appeal must be exercised within 10 working days of receipt of the letter of confirmation of disciplinary action.
  • The appeal, stating the grounds on which it is made, should be sent in writing to the Director of Human Resources.
  • An appeal against a decision by the Vice-Chancellor or the nominated deputy to dismiss will be heard by an Appeals Committee, which will consist of one independent Governor of the University, and two other parties who are either Deans, Directors or other member of the Senior Management Team, nominated by the Director of Human Resources. None of the participants will have previously been involved in the case. Decisions made on appeal shall be final and the employee will be informed in writing within five days after the appeal hearing. The Committee will be chaired by the Governor member.
  • The Appeals Committee will hear any appeal within 20 working days of the appeal being lodged, unless otherwise agreed in writing between the parties.
  • The decision of the appeal body (communicated in writing to the employee) shall be final within the procedures of the University.
  • In all cases of appeal the employee may appear in person and with a fellow employee, friend or a trade union representative.
  • The procedure for the appeal hearing is set out in Appendix 4.

Appendices

  1. Examples of misconduct and gross misconduct
  2. Procedure for disciplinary hearing
  3. Procedure for making oral representations to the Vice-Chancellor against a recommendation for dismissal
  4. Appeal at the final stage of the Disciplinary Procedure

 

Updated Mar 2012