Disciplinary hearings: The process


A disciplinary hearing is a meeting between an employer and an employee held when the employer wishes to discuss an allegation of gross misconduct of the employee. This meeting is used to decide what disciplinary action will be taken if it is needed.

This is an extremely sensitive and stressful process for all of those involved; therefore, specific procedures need to be followed to ensure a fair disciplinary process.

But what are those procedures? It isn’t exactly explained in your welcome letter when you join a company. So here is a quick guide the proper steps that need to be taken during a disciplinary process for both employers and employees to they are given a fair hearing.

Step 1

Issue the employee with a notice to attend a disciplinary hearing

This notice must state the date, time and place where the hearing will take place. A detailed description of the charges against the employee must be clearly and explicitly stated on this notice as well, including the date and time of the incident. The employer needs to hand this notice to the employee with enough time to prepare; this excludes weekends and public holidays. The employee needs to be given at least 48 hours to prepare before the hearing.

Step 2

Conduct the hearing on the proposed date and time

The employee has the right to decide whether or not they will attend the hearing; however, even if the employee does not attend the hearing should still proceed. It is absolutely crucial to understand that in these hearings, an impartial chairperson, someone not involved or employed by the company, needs to oversee it and listen to the evidence.

Step 3

Ask for the accused’s plea

First, the chairperson must decide whether or not the employee had sufficient time to prepare for the hearing even if the employee is absent. The chairperson then needs to ask during the hearing how the accused pleads to the charges against them, guilty or not guilty. The employer will then present evidence and witnesses supporting their case. The accused or their representative is then able to cross-examine the evidence and witnesses. Afterwards, the accused’s case is heard, and witnesses brought to bring their evidence. The employer is then allowed to cross-examine that evidence and the witnesses.

Step 4

The chairperson must find the accused guilty or not guilty

At the end of the hearing after the closing arguments, the employer will be asked to present aggravating arguments and the accused mitigating arguments. The chairperson will then decide whether or not the accused is guilty. They will then make a recommendation to the employer about the disciplinary action that should be taken, to either dismiss the employee or not. This decision, however, does not always take place on the day of the hearing, the chairman may decide to go over the evidence later and will give a date that the decision and recommended action will be decided by.

It is vital to know that the employer cannot go against the decision of the chairperson as to do so would be procedurally unfair.

This is part of a series of blogs in the ‘Disciplinary hearings’ series.

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