Discipline and Grievance

by Kate Russell

Appeals

Tip

Note that it is not good practice to increase the penalty on appeal.

The opportunity to appeal against a disciplinary decision is essential to natural justice. The ACAS Code recommends that you provide an opportunity to appeal against a formal disciplinary penalty up to and including dismissal. Appeals may be raised for various reasons: for example, the discovery of new evidence, undue harshness or inconsistency of the penalty. It is also an opportunity to correct defects in the original disciplinary procedure.

Appeals procedure

A good appeals procedure should include the following provisions.

  • The time within which the appeal should be lodged should be specified – the ACAS code recommends five working days.
  • Appeals should be dealt with quickly.
  • The employee should be advised of his right to be accompanied at the appeal hearing.
  • The procedure should provide for the appeal to be heard by someone senior in authority to the person who took the disciplinary decision. If possible, whoever hears the appeal should not have been involved at the earlier stage.
  • The procedure should specify what action may be taken by those hearing the appeal.
  • The employee, or his representative, should be allowed the opportunity to comment on any new evidence arising during the appeal before any decision is taken.

Within small firms, it is often difficult to identify someone with higher authority than the person who took the original disciplinary decision to hear the appeal. In this case, your disciplinary procedure can provide for an independent third party to be nominated.

Hearing an appeal

Beforehand ensure that

  • Your employee knows when and where it is to be held
  • He is aware of his right to be accompanied
  • The relevant records and notes of the original hearing are available.

At the hearing, keep to the following procedure.

  1. Introduce those present to each other, explaining their function.
  2. Explain the purpose of the hearing, how it will be conducted, and the powers held by the person hearing the appeal.
  3. Ask the staff member why he is appealing against the disciplinary penalty.
  4. Listen carefully to any new evidence that has been introduced, and give the staff member the opportunity to comment.
  5. Once the relevant issues have been thoroughly explored, summarise the facts.
  6. Adjourn to consider the decision. You should not be afraid to overturn a previous decision if it becomes apparent that it was not soundly based.
  7. Inform your employee of the results of the appeal and the reasons for the decision and confirm it in writing. Make it clear, if this is the case, that this decision is final.