Disciplinary investigations and meetings

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An employer who considers an employee in breach of their employment agreement may decide to commence a disciplinary investigation against that employee.

Sometimes an outcome of a disciplinary investigation can be dismissal and so it is very important not to take the process lightly and to seek advice.

A disciplinary investigation or meeting is something that an employer should notify in writing. The initial notice should set out the detail of the matter being investigated and any relevant evidence and nominated time for a meeting or formal written response. An employee should be given plenty of time to seek advice before responding. They should be given the opportunity to have a support person at any meeting with them.

Sometimes it is necessary for there to be several meetings, particularly if something raised by the employee needs to be considered or investigated further by the employer.

Disciplinary investigations need to be conducted following the rules of natural justice. This means the employee is entitled to understand the nature of the allegations that are being put to them and be given a genuine opportunity to have input and give their response to the employer. The employer must genuinely take into account the input.

A good employer will run and investigation in two phases. The first phase is to determine whether or not the employment contract has been breached. The second phase is to determine whether, if the contract has been breached, there should be any consequence such as a warning or dismissal.

At every stage, once the employer is close to reaching a decision, a proposed decision should be provided to the employee for comment and final input.

A disciplinary investigation that is not run properly or reaches a conclusion that it is not possible to reach on the facts may lead and employee bringing a personal grievance. It is therefore very important that employers seek advice before commencing a disciplinary investigation meeting. Likewise it is important that employees faced with the prospect of such an investigation meeting seek expert advice.

This article is not a substitute for legal advice about your own individual situation. Every case can be different so please seek legal advice or contact me direct for advice that applies to you.