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Disciplinary Procedure

Appendix 1 - Order of Proceedings for Disciplinary Meeting and Disciplinary Appeal Hearing

Appendix 2 - Flow Chart

Disciplinary Procedure

    1. Policy Statement
    2. General Principles
    3. Informal Procedure/Counselling
    4. Investigatory Process/Fact finding Meetings
    5. Disciplinary Procedure
    6. Appeal Procedure
    7. Accompaniment
    8. Levels of Disciplinary Action
    9. Time Limits for Warnings
    10. Suspension
    11. Arrangements in respect of the Principal

1.  Policy Statement

1.1       The University aims to ensure that there will be a fair and systematic approach to the maintenance of standards of conduct affecting all grades of staff within the University.

1.2       This Procedure is designed to reflect the ACAS Code of Practice and Guidance on Disciplinary Practice and Procedures post 5 April 2009.


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2.  General Principles

2.1  This Procedure is referred to in the statement of the conditions of appointment of the employment contract. The Procedure conforms to the following legislation (as amended at this time.)

2.2  This Procedure is designed to help and encourage all members of staff to achieve and maintain satisfactory standards of conduct, attendance and job performance. The aim is to ensure consistent and fair treatment for all.

2.3  The University acknowledges the general principle set out in the ACAS guidance and the foreword to the Code that employers and employees should always seeks to resolve disciplinary and grievance issues in the workplace and if settled at an early stage they are normally less time consuming and less likely to damage working relationships.  Informal action may therefore often be a more satisfactory method of resolving problems and this should be considered before proceeding to formal proceedings.

2.4  At any formal stage of this Procedure a member of staff has the right to be represented by a representative or Official of their Trade Union of which they are a member or be accompanied by a fellow University member of staff of their choice.

2.5  Within the University, Deans of School/Directors or their Depute or equivalent have the authority to take or to authorise disciplinary action. Before taking such action the issues should first be discussed with Human Resources. Any decision therefore to warn or dismiss a member of staff must be formally discussed with Human Resources.

2.6  Disciplinary action should not normally be taken against an accredited Trade Union representative until the circumstances of the case have been discussed with Human Resources and a full-time official of the Union concerned unless in serious circumstances requiring immediate action.

2.7  No action taken in terms of this Procedure should discriminate for any reason.

2.8  It is recognised that situations can arise where it would not be appropriate to use this Procedure and instead it should be considered whether the use of another of the University’s policies is more appropriate (e.g. Sickness Absence Policy and Procedure, Capability, Alcohol and Substance Misuse, Work Life Balance Policy).  The HR Officer will provide guidance to the line manager on the advisability, or not, of stopping the Disciplinary Procedure at any stage and considering the circumstances under another policy.  The University’s edr initiatives including mediation may also be an alternative option to consider at this stage.

2.9  Copies of this Procedure will be included on the Human Resources Web Site, and also available from Human Resources.

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3.  Informal Action

3.1  Informal action in cases of minor misconduct or unsatisfactory performance is usually best dealt with informally and may often be a more satisfactory method of resolving problems than a disciplinary meeting.  It is likely that any informal action will be carried out by the member of staff’s direct line manger or supervisor. It should normally initially take the form of a discussion with the objective of encouraging and helping the member of staff to improve.

3.2  It must not turn into a disciplinary meeting. It may be identified that additional training, coaching, advice or mediation may be considered and the University’s policy linkage document to its edr initiative should be consulted for other available options. The member of staff should fully understand the outcome of any informal meeting and there should also be clarity that the formal processes may start if there is no improvement or if any improvement fails to be maintained. It is important that arrangements are made to review progress over a specified period.

3.3  Brief notes of any agreed informal action should be shared and kept for reference purposes.

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4.  Investigatory Process/Fact Finding Meetings

4.1  It is important to investigate any alleged disciplinary offence both thoroughly and promptly. The University and members of staff should raise and deal with issues promptly and consistently to establish the facts of the case.

4.2  Human Resources should be contacted as quickly as possible by the Dean of School/Director or their Depute or equivalent, in order to decide appropriate action. For minor offences, Dean of School/Director or their Depute or equivalent may conduct the fact finding meeting without a representative from Human Resources being present.

4.3  It is recommended that where possible the investigation is undertaken by the Dean of School/Director’s Depute or equivalent so the Dean of School/Director is in a position to take forward any the disciplinary meeting, if required, without any previous involvement.  It is acknowledged that the Dean/Director may need to take advice from specialist in certain circumstances for example the suspected misuse of IT facilities.

4.4  An investigation should establish facts. An open mind should be kept and all appropriate evidence should be sought (i.e. in support of as well as against the member of staff’s case.)

4.5  Records, timesheets etc, may have to be checked and witnesses may have to be seen. Facts should be established promptly before memories fade, including taking statements from available witnesses. The University should inform a member of staff of the basis of the problem before the meeting and give them an opportunity to put their case in response before any recommendations are made. A member of staff will be given reasonable notice (normally a minimum of 5 working days) of any formal investigatory meeting.

4.6  Where a fact finding meeting takes place with the member of staff implicated by the allegations, the member of staff should be advised that it is not part of the disciplinary process but that they may wish to be accompanied by a colleague or their trade union representative.

4.7  In some cases it may be necessary to suspend the member of staff pending the outcome of the investigation. For information on the circumstances when suspension may be appropriate see Section 10.

4.8  Once the investigation is complete a recommendation will be made to the Dean of School/Director on possible courses of action. These will be complaint without foundation, no action, informal action or formal action.

4.8.1  If no action is to be taken the member of staff will be notified of this in writing. This outcome will be recorded on their personal file. Any evidence collected during the investigation will be destroyed.

4.8.2  If informal action is to be taken, the procedure detailed in Section 3 will be followed.

4.8.3  If there is a need to proceed with formal action, the member of staff should be informed in writing and the procedure detailed in Section 5 will be followed.

4.9  The written notification of formal action should contain sufficient information about the alleged misconduct or poor performance and its possible consequences to enable the member of staff to prepare to answer the case at a disciplinary meeting.

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5.  The Formal Disciplinary Procedure

5.1  The procedure in summary:

5.1.1  The member of staff will receive written communication setting out the nature and details of the alleged offence.  They would normally be provided with copies of any written evidence which may include witness statements.

5.1.2  The written communication will make it clear that disciplinary action may be required and the range of disciplinary action that will be considered (i.e. no action through to possible dismissal).

5.1.3  The member of staff will be invited to a meeting to discuss the matter and advised of their right to be accompanied by their Trade Union representative/Official or fellow University member of staff.

5.2  The Disciplinary meeting should be held without unreasonable delay, whilst allowing the member of staff reasonable time to prepare their case. The member of staff and their representative should make every effort to attend. If they are unable to attend a date will be re-scheduled normally within 5 days of the original date. If a member of staff continues to be unavailable to attend a meeting without good cause, the manager will refer the matter to Human Resources.  The University may ultimately conclude that a decision will be made on the evidence available.

5.3  It is the University’s aim to deal with all disciplinary matters promptly. If they are not handled within the timescales stipulated the matter will be referred to the University Secretary.       

5.4  A provision for any reasonable adjustments to accommodate the needs of a person with disabilities should be considered.

5.5  The member of staff may, if they wish, be accompanied at the meeting by their Trade Union representative/Official or fellow University member of staff. In exceptional cases (i.e. where there is a language issue) the member of staff may also be accompanied by another person who would act as an interpreter.

5.6  The disciplinary matter will normally be heard by the Dean of School/Director or their Depute or equivalent and generally a representative from Human Resources.  

5.7  An additional representative from the University may be asked to sit on the panel particularly if the matter to be considered requires specialist knowledge (e.g. IT, Finance etc).

5.8  If the investigation has been carried out by the Dean of School/Director’s Depute or equivalent, the Depute or equivalent will explain the complaint against the member of staff and go through the evidence that has been gathered. Notice of the meeting and any material relating to this case will be made available to the member of staff at least 5 working days in advance of the meeting but individual circumstance will be taken into account.            

5.9  At the meeting the member of staff should be advised of their rights under the University’s procedure. The member of staff or their representative should be allowed to set out their case and their version of events in response to any allegations that have been made. The member of staff should be given equal opportunity to present their evidence and call relevant witnesses to support their case.   In addition, the member of staff or their representative should be given an opportunity to raise any points in response to information provided by witnesses and to ask questions relating to this information.      

5.10  If witnesses are to be called or their written statements produced at the meeting, both parties must have received prior warning of who the witnesses to be called are and copies of their written statements provided normally at least 5 working days in advance of the meeting.

5.11  Human Resources will be advised by both parties of witnesses attending. HR will then write to the witnesses to confirm the arrangements and to coordinate the timing of the proceedings.

5.12  A note taker who is not involved in the case should be asked to take a minute of the meeting.

5.13  If the panel considers that further investigations are necessary, the meeting can be adjourned to allow further enquiries to take place.

5.14  The Dean of School/Director, in conjunction with other members of the panel, will decide on what action, if any, is to be taken.

5.15  The Disciplinary meeting outcome will normally be communicated to the member of staff within 7 working days of the Disciplinary meeting.

5.16  The letter will make it clear that the member of staff has a right to appeal and will outline what action must be taken if the member of staff wishes to assert this right.

5.17  A record of the meeting should also be given to the member of staff.

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6.  The Appeal Procedure

6.1  The letter which communicates the decision to take disciplinary action against the member of staff must contain details of their right of appeal.

6.2  Any appeal against the decision to take the disciplinary action should be submitted, in writing, to the University Secretary within 10 days of receipt by the member of staff of the written notice of disciplinary action unless in exceptional circumstances such as serious illness or bereavement when a delay can be agreed.

6.3  On receipt of an appeal, the University Secretary or his/her delegated nominee will set up an Appeal Committee:

For staff in categories: academic related; research; clerical; technical and manual, the panel members will comprise:

6.4  The member of staff has the right to be represented by a trade union representative or a work colleague throughout the appeal process.

6.5  The Appeal Committee will hear the appeal within 5 weeks or within the contractual notice period, if sooner.

6.6  Both the University representative (the Chair of Disciplinary Panel which decided on disciplinary action) and the appellant will submit to the University Secretary a written statement of case and names of witnesses they have arranged to call no later than 5 working days prior to the date of the Appeal Hearing.

6.7  The statements of cases and names of witnesses from both University management and the appellant will be copied to the other party and both cases and sets of witnesses’ names will be passed to the members of the Appeal Committee prior to the Appeal Hearing.

6.8  The member of staff will have the opportunity to state their grounds of appeal.  Where the member of staff is unable to speak on their own behalf their trade union representative or work colleague will be entitled to speak on their behalf.

6.9  At the Appeal Hearing the appellant and/or representative will be invited to present their case first, followed by the University’s management representative(s).  The Appeal Committee members may ask questions of either or both parties and both parties will have the opportunity to cross-question the other. The Appeal Committee will decide, at its discretion, the order of proceedings regarding witnesses’ evidence and procedural matters.

6.10  The Appeal Committee will decide whether the decision on disciplinary action is upheld, or not.

6.11  The Appeal Committee’s decision will normally be communicated to the appellant within 7 working days of the Appeal Hearing.

6.12  The decision of the Appeal Committee is final and there is no further right of appeal.

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7.  Accompaniment

7.1  A member of staff has a statutory right to be accompanied by a representative where the disciplinary meeting could result in

7.2  The representative will be able 

7.3  The representative will not however have the right

7.4  Where a member of staff raises a related grievance during a disciplinary process, consideration will be given as to whether to temporarily suspend the disciplinary process to deal with the grievance or whether to deal with both issues concurrently. 

7.5  If a grievance is raised which is unrelated to the disciplinary matter this will be considered separately and in accordance with the University’s Grievance procedure. 

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8.  Levels of Disciplinary Action

8.1  Following a disciplinary meeting, if disciplinary action or any other action is considered to be necessary the employer will inform the member of staff in writing.

8.2  The following is a list of the 4 possible disciplinary outcomes:

8.2.1  Oral Warning

An oral warning should normally be the first form of disciplinary action to be taken in connection with any particular failing on the part of a member of staff, which is not unduly serious. Minor breaches of discipline, misconduct, poor time-keeping, etc., will result in an oral warning. An oral warning should be confirmed to the member of staff in writing.

8.2.2  Written warning

Where misconduct is confirmed or the member of staff is found to be performing unsatisfactorily it is usual to give the member of staff a written warning.

8.2.3  Final Written warning

A further act of misconduct or failure to improve performance within a set period would normally result in a final written warning.  If a member of staff’s first misconduct or unsatisfactory performance is sufficiently serious, it may be appropriate to move directly to a final written warning. This might occur where the member of staff’s actions have had, or are liable to have, a serious or harmful impact on the organisation. 

A first or final written warning should set out the nature of the misconduct or poor performance and the change in behaviour or improvement in performance required (with timescale). The member of staff should be told how long the warning will remain current. The member of staff should be informed of the consequences of further misconduct, or failure to improve performance, within the set period following a final warning. For instance that it may result in dismissal or some other contractual penalty.

8.2.4  Dismissal

Dismissal is appropriate in cases of:

It is not possible to list all the circumstances which would warrant dismissal without previous warnings but the following are examples of misconduct which could warrant such dismissal:

8.3  The member of staff should be informed as soon as possible of the reasons for the dismissal, the date on which the employment contract will end, the appropriate period of notice and their right of appeal.

8.4  Unless a member of staff is being dismissed for reasons of gross misconduct they should receive the period of notice stated in their contract or payment in lieu of notice.

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9.  Time Limits for Warnings

9.1  The time limits for warnings are :

9.2  The disciplinary warning will expire after the time limit specified. 

9.3  Warnings should cease to be 'live' following the specified period of satisfactory conduct.

9.4  In exceptional circumstances the outcome may include a recommendation that a warning remain on record for an extended period of time. For example there may be occasions where a member of staff's conduct is satisfactory throughout the period the warning is in force, only to lapse very soon thereafter. Where a pattern emerges and/or there is evidence of abuse, the member of staff's disciplinary record will be borne in mind in deciding how long any warning should last. 

9.5  Written confirmation regarding any warning will state:

9.5.1  Details of the misconduct or performance that has occasioned the warning.

9.5.2  Details of the improvement required and the time limit for this if appropriate.

9.5.3  That any further misconduct will result in (i) a further warning which unheeded may result in dismissal with appropriate notice or (ii) dismissal with appropriate notice.

9.5.4  The length of time the warning will remain on the member of staff’s personal file.

9.5.5  Information regarding the member of staff’s right of appeal (see section 7).

9.6  Written confirmation regarding a dismissal will state:

9.6.1  Details of the misconduct or performance that has led to the dismissal.

9.6.2  Details of the notice period (or payment in lieu of notice) which applies or in the case of summarily dismissal, the fact that no notice will apply.

9.6.3  Information regarding the member of staff’s right of appeal (see section 7).

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10.  Suspension

10.1  Where there appears to be serious misconduct, or risk to property or other people, a period of suspension with full pay should be considered while the case is being investigated. Human Resources should be contacted in these circumstances. If suspension is considered appropriate, a letter will be issued confirming the details of the suspension.

10.2  The period of suspension should be as brief as possible and kept under review. It should be made clear that the suspension is not considered a disciplinary action.

10.3  Letters informing member of staffs of warnings, suspension or dismissal will be issued by Human Resources and copies kept on the individual’s personal file.  

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11.  Arrangements in respect of the Principal

11.1  The principles of the University’s Disciplinary Procedure will apply to the Principal.

11.2  If an allegation of misconduct involves the Principal, the Chair of Court will appoint an Investigating Officer of his/her choice to undertake an investigation.  The Investigating Officer may be external to the University.

11.3  If the outcome of the investigation is considered by the Chair of Court to be minor in nature, he/she will be responsible for deciding upon and implementing the appropriate measures to address the matter.

11.4  If the Chair of Court considers the outcome of the investigation to be of a serious nature he/she will appoint two lay Court members to join him/her on a Disciplinary panel to hear the case.

11.5  Where the decision of the Disciplinary panel is to dismiss the Principal, the Chair of Court will have the authority to do so.

11.6  The Principal will have the right of appeal against dismissal.  A panel of three: one external solicitor (as Chair) and two lay Court members not previously involved in the case will hear the appeal, the outcome of which will be final.

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Version 1.2 (1 June 2018)