Conduct and discipline policy

  1. Introduction

1.1                Wycombe District Council recognises the importance of maintaining high standards of conduct amongst its staff to ensure the proper conduct of the Council's affairs and for the health, safety and well-being of all employees.

1.2                Managers have a responsibility for the day to day management and performance management of their staff and it is expected that they work to rectify problems through informal discussions, coaching and/or guidance. However there may be occasions where this approach is insufficient to deal with particular circumstances and a formal procedure is necessary to maintain standards of behaviour and ensure fair and consistent application of disciplinary measures.

1.3                The purpose of the policy is to:-

  • Help and encourage all employees to work together to address concerns about conduct and to achieve and maintain standards of conduct.
  • Provide a fair, transparent and consistent method of dealing with possible breaches of discipline that need to be brought to the employee's attention in accordance with natural justice and relevant legislative requirements.
  1. Scope

2.1                The policy applies to all staff employed by Wycombe District Council except:

  •    those staff subject to the Joint Negotiating Committee (JNC) for Chief Officers and Chief Executives of local authorities - Conditions of Service and Standing Orders,
  •    new staff who are still within their probationary period. Conduct issues will be addressed through the Council's Probationary Policy, and
  •   contractors, agency staff and self-employed consultants or individuals on secondment to the Council unless explicit arrangements to the contrary are agreed and formalised in the secondment agreement.
  1. Principles

3.1                Everyone involved in managing conduct and discipline has a duty to abide by these principles:

  1. Working together. Managers must work with their staff to address concerns about conduct in preference to invoking formal procedures.
  2. Supporting staff. The Council has a duty of care to staff affected by concerns about their conduct.
  3. Fairness and impartiality. Everyone involved in managing conduct and discipline must maintain the highest standards of fairness and impartiality.
  4. Proportionality and timeliness. In the interests of staff and cost effectiveness, any action or decision taken under this policy must be proportionate and timely.
  5. No individuals will be discriminated against in the application of this policy and procedure on any grounds including grounds of the protected characteristics, trade union status, part-time status or any other personal characteristic or quality. Where a disabled employee is involved in a disciplinary issue, reasonable adjustments may be made following discussions with the employee and/or their representative.
  6.   The Council recognises that being investigated under this process is likely to be a difficult and stressful experience. A nominated contact officer will be made available to an employee (see 4.8 for more details) in addition to any support provided from a trade union representative or work colleague.
  7.   All parties involved in these procedures are advised not to discuss the matter with anyone else who may be involved in the case in order to preserve the integrity of the investigation and the process. If in any doubt, please speak with the Head of Service/delegated officer managing the process who will liaise with HR and/or the Investigating Officer as required.
  8. The Head of Service/delegated officer may also identify, in writing, specific people that an employee must not discuss the case with, in order to ensure an impartial investigation. If this includes the employee's line manager, the Head of Service/delegated officer will identify another manager that the employee can discuss any concerns with. A breach of any such instruction may result in disciplinary action.

4.                 Roles and Responsibilities

4.1                Heads of Service are responsible for the overall management of standards of conduct within their service. The authority to take action under this procedure rests with the relevant Head of Service. Heads of Service are able to delegate their authority to designated officers either within or outside of their service who, it is expected, are appropriately trained and/or experienced.

4.2Heads of Service/Delegated Officers will:-

  1. Take overall responsibility for managing the conduct and discipline process.
  2. Following a decision to investigate a matter formally, convene an initial case management meeting and in liaison with HR, commission an appropriate investigating officer, such as a manager in the service and arrange, where relevant, for them to have suitable release time from their day to day duties to facilitate a timely completion of the investigation or commission the services of an Independent Investigating Officer, as appropriate.
  3. Set out the reasons and make a recommendation to the Head of HR regarding the suspension of an employee, if appropriate.
  4. Consider the recommendation of the Manager/Investigating Officer as to whether a conduct and discipline hearing is required or not.
  5. Chair conduct and discipline hearings. Where dismissal is a possible outcome, the minimum authority level of the Chair will be Head of Service.
  6. Maintain confidentiality
  7. Ensure that everyone affected by a disciplinary investigation is regularly updated (including both the member of staff involved and any witnesses).

4.3Managers

Managers are responsible for applying the Conduct & Discipline Policy and procedure in a fair and consistent manner. They are also responsible for making sure employees are aware of the Council's rules, policies, practices and procedures and will:-

  1. Maintain a working environment where all employees are aware of accepted standards of conduct and will promptly draw an employee's attention to any way in which his/her conduct falls below the required standard
  2. Counsel employees informally on matters which do not warrant action under the formal procedures
  3. Examine the standards applied in similar situations to make sure the employee is not being unfairly singled out and to ensure consistency
  4. Make notes of any formal or informal discussions relating to any potential or actual disciplinary matter
  5. Maintain confidentiality

4.4Employees will:-

  1. Take full responsibility for their conduct and maintain a standard of conduct acceptable to the Line Manager and other employees
  2. Co-operate in any investigation being carried out into their own or other's alleged misconduct
  3. Attend and take part in any conduct and discipline hearing and be prepared to put forward their version of events and/or explain their conduct fully, honestly and truthfully
  4. Maintain confidentiality

4.5Human Resources will:-

  1. Provide advice and guidance to managers and investigating officers at each stage of the disciplinary process including meetings/hearings, investigation report, appeals and standard documentation to ensure compliance with the law, procedure and process.
  2. Attend conduct and discipline hearings and appeal hearings in an advisory capacity to the Chair of the hearing, and advise on an appropriate disciplinary sanction in specific cases
  3. Ensure that records of disciplinary investigations and hearings are placed on the appropriate file
  4. Maintain confidentiality

4.6Managers/Investigating Officers will:-

  1. Liaise with the Head of Service/delegated officer and HR, as appropriate, to gain a full understanding of the nature and scope of an investigation and maintain contact with them during the investigative process
  2. Provide a complete investigation report, within a recommended timeline, and to an acceptable standard, in line with the report template.
  3. Advise the Head of Service of any potential conflict of interest that might prejudice a fair investigation
  4. Make a recommendation to the Head of Service /delegated officer as to whether or not there is a potential case to answer at a conduct and discipline hearing
  5. be expected to attend conduct and discipline hearings to present the management case.
  6. Maintain confidentiality

4.7Witnesses will:-

  1. Co-operate with a disciplinary investigation
  2. Be present at hearings to provide their information
  3. Where exceptional circumstances give rise to a witness requesting anonymity, HR should be consulted for guidance
  4. Maintain confidentiality

4.8Contact Officer will:-               

  1. Be appointed by the Head of Service/delegated officer.
  2. Advise the employee on procedural issues and will endeavour to make contact with an employee within 24 hours of being notified of a formal investigation, keeping a record of all contact.
  3. Maintain confidentiality

NB the contact officer will normally be a nominated representative from the service area.

5                Standards of Conduct

5.1                All Council employees must perform their duties to the best of their abilities with honesty, integrity, impartiality and objectivity and contribute to the maintenance of high standards in public service. In addition, employees have a responsibility to be aware of and conform to the Councils' values, rules, policies and procedures and in accordance with this policy, to co-operate with any investigations, attend any meetings, interviews and hearings.

               

Misconduct

5.2                The following examples of misconduct are intended to help employees understand the standards required by the Council. The Council's Employees' Code of Conduct expands further on some of these standards.

5.3                The examples provided below are for guidance only and are not an exhaustive list

•                Failure to comply with a reasonable management instruction

•                Failure to observe the Council's Standing Orders, financial or other operational regulations

•                Failure to observe Council policy, for example, actions in breach of the Council's IT Security guidelines or the Council's data protection protocol

•                Negligence in the performance of duties

•                Failure to provide a duty of care in the performance of role

•                Breach of Health & Safety rules and requirements including any act or omission

•                Poor-time keeping

•                Misuse of Council property and equipment including misuse of email, fax, photocopiers/printers, internet facilities or letter-headed paper etc.

•                Failure to follow the Council's sickness notification procedures and certification requirements

•                Abuse of the sickness scheme e.g. engaging in activities which may delay recovery

  • Unauthorised absence

•                Being under the influence of alcohol or illegal drugs whilst at work

•                Improper use of information obtained in the Council's employment

•                Abusive or inappropriate behaviour toward Councillors, fellow employees or members of the public

•                Conduct contrary to the Employees' Code of Conduct.

•                Conduct outside work which may bring the Council into disrepute.

Gross Misconduct

5.4                Gross misconduct is a serious breach of contract and includes misconduct which is likely to have a significant impact on the Council, its reputation or irreparably damage the working relationship and trust and confidence between the employee and the Council. An act of gross misconduct may result in the employee being summarily dismissed without notice and without any pay in lieu of notice even where there are no previous warnings on record.

  • Serious acts of insubordination or persistent refusal to comply with reasonable management instructions
  • Gross negligence in the performance of duties
  • Theft from the Council, its employees or members of the public or other acts of dishonesty
  •  Dishonest or improper use of information obtained in the Council's employment, for example, disclosure of information pertaining to Council tender documents to outside contractors leading to unfair competition
  • Serious breach of duty regarding disclosure or non-disclosure of confidential information
  • Serious breach of Council Policies, Financial Regulations, Health and Safety, Safeguarding or other operational regulations
  • Fraud
  • Falsification of information, for example, qualifications or other relevant personal details in seeking and obtaining employment or promotion; information contained in time sheets, overtime claims, expense claims, invoices, accounts, records or medical certificates etc
  • Violent, offensive, abusive or indecent behaviour
  • Bullying
  • Unlawful acts of discrimination within the workplace contrary to the Equality Act 2010
  • Harassment including discriminatory harassment, for example sexual harassment
  • Unauthorised removal of and/or serious misuse of and/or deliberate damage to Council property and equipment.
  • Persistent unauthorised absence
  • Serious misuse of the Council's information technology systems (including misuse of software, email and internet).
  • Sexual misconduct at work
  • Aiding and abetting any of the above
  • Incapability at work as a result of alcohol / illegal drugs and/or taking, buying or selling illegal drugs on Council premises.
  • Other actions which fundamentally breach the relationship of trust and confidence which exists between employer and employee
  • Conduct that is considered seriously contrary to the Employees' Code of Conduct
  • Bringing the Council into serious disrepute.
  • Criminal offences and cautions outside of work, including reprimands, final warnings or penalty notices (see Section 10)
  • Any action that is deemed to be seriously detrimental to the Council's reputation.

6.0                Informal Action on conduct (including preliminary enquiries)               

6.1                Before commencing the formal disciplinary procedure, consideration will be given by the line manager as to whether the matter can be dealt with informally. This will depend on factors such as the seriousness of the complaint/concern, the evidence available, any previous similar concerns and the potential impact on others, e.g. service users, other employees, the public etc. Typically, the line manager will have a private discussion with the employee on a 1:1 basis to establish if there is an explanation for the potential misconduct. Informal coaching, management guidance, mediation and/or counselling can resolve problems at an early stage and may prevent the need to deal with matters under the formal disciplinary procedure.

6.2                If the line manager does decide to resolve the matter informally, he/she will make a written account of the concerns raised with the employee about their conduct and why it is unsatisfactory, any explanation the employee has offered, and any measurable actions that may have been agreed, including training, timeframe for improvement/review meetings etc. The written account could take the form of a letter, email or 1:1 note which will be shared with the employee and retained by the manager as a record of the meeting.

6.3                Where informal actions fail to achieve or sustain the necessary improvement in conduct, or where the alleged misconduct is considered more serious, the formal Disciplinary Procedure, explained below, will be used.

6.4                Where an employee admits to a concern/complaint at an informal stage and/or further information comes to light during the discussion with the employee which leads the line manager to feel the issue is more serious than was originally thought, the manager may decide that the issue should be investigated in line with the formal Disciplinary Procedure.

                Notes of any informal action/ may be referred to in a subsequent investigation if there is a repetition of similar misconduct. However informal action does not constitute any form of formal disciplinary action.

Formal Disciplinary Procedure

7.0                Misconduct/Gross Misconduct - Formal Stage

7.1                Once the manager has determined that a matter needs to be dealt with formally, an Initial Case Management Meeting will be convened by the Manager advised by HR. Where gross misconduct is suspected, the meeting will be convened by the Head of Service or delegated officer, advised by HR. This will set out the required steps of the investigation including whether to suspend the employee, when to inform them and whether any other parties such as the Police or Audit need to be informed. Management guidance on holding an Initial Case Management Meeting is available in the Manager's toolkit. Where there is a safeguarding concern the Manager will immediately inform the Local Authority Designated Officer (LADO) and their advice will be considered in the Initial Case Management Meeting.

                NB:- In certain cases (e.g. where current, ongoing fraud is suspected) it may be appropriate not to inform the employee at this stage in order to allow necessary observations/surveillance and the collection of evidence to take place.

8.0                Investigation

8.1                The purpose of an investigation is to establish a fair and balanced view of the facts in a timely manner relating to any disciplinary concerns raised against the employee, before deciding whether to proceed with a conduct and discipline hearing. The employee will be informed of the concerns in writing at the earliest appropriate opportunity that an investigation has begun and they will be invited to an investigation meeting. No decision on disciplinary action will be taken during the investigation. The amount of investigation required will depend on the nature of the concerns and will vary from case to case. An Investigating Officer will be appointed, the choice of which is at the discretion of the Council, to carry out the investigation, and this will be a different person to the Chair of any subsequent Conduct and discipline hearing involving the employee, if the matter proceeds to a hearing.

                               

8.2                As part of the investigation the employee will be interviewed. The employee may be accompanied by a colleague or Trade Union Representative during the disciplinary investigation interview/meeting (see Section 16 for further details).

8.3                The investigation meeting is an opportunity for the employee to respond to the concerns, deny the allegations, explain the reasons behind the conduct and/or put forward any mitigation. Where the employee would like the Council to consider any medical issues that may be having an impact on their conduct, it is likely he/she will be asked to attend an Occupational Health appointment so these medical issues can be assessed and considered more fully.

 8.4                Employees are expected to co-operate fully and promptly with any investigation. It is in the best interest of the employee and the Council to resolve any concerns without undue delay.

8.5                The investigation should be conducted in a timely manner and the employee will be advised at the outset when the investigation is expected to be completed. If it is not possible to complete the investigation within this timeframe the employee will be given an explanation for the delay and informed when the investigation is expected to be completed.

               

9                Suspension

9.1                An employee may be suspended from duty on full pay at any time in any of the circumstances described below as their presence at work may:

•                hinder or jeopardise the investigation process

•                be a risk to the employee or others

•                present an unacceptable risk to the Council's service delivery

 

9.2                Whether to suspend an employee or not will be discussed at the Initial Case Management Meeting, any recommendation to suspend should be set out in writing by the Head of Service/delegated officer to the Head of HR for authorisation.

9.3                Any alternatives to suspension will also be considered at this meeting and may be agreed by the Head of Service pending the results of a preliminary investigation and a decision on whether to suspend. These alternatives will normally only be used in the short term, and may include:

•                Permitting the employee to work from home

•                Work at an alternative location or in an alternative role

•                Work in a more closely supervised environment

  •     A restriction of duties

•                Management leave (may be appropriate pending consideration whether to suspend or not).

9.4                Any suspension will be kept under regular review and will be for no longer than is necessary. The employee will be informed at the outset how long the suspension is to be for. If the investigation is not completed in the expected timeframe the employee will be given an explanation for the delay and informed when the investigation is expected to be completed and the extended period of suspension will be confirmed.

.

9.5                Suspension is not a form of disciplinary action and does not imply that the employee is responsible for the alleged misconduct and will not detrimentally affect their contractual pay or terms and conditions of employment. However, pay may be stopped during the period of suspension in circumstances where the employee refuses and/or fails to co-operate or assist with the investigation. The Head of Service will notify the employee in writing of any decision to stop pay during a period of suspension.

9.6                Should the employee commence sick leave during a period of suspension, he/she must notify their line manager on the first day of sickness, submit a statement of fitness (fit note) from the 8th day of sickness absence and comply with the Council's sickness reporting procedures. During periods of sickness the employee will be paid in accordance with the Council's rules on sick pay. The terms of the suspension will still apply during any periods of sickness absence.

9.7                When an employee is suspended he/she will be informed of:

•                The reason for the suspension

•                Any terms of the suspension including the requirement to maintain appropriate confidentiality

•                The date from which the suspension shall apply

•                The likely duration of the suspension

•                The name of their nominated contact, normally from the service

9.8                Employees will normally be given details about the allegations under investigation at the time of suspension. However, exceptionally, this may not be possible depending on the nature of the conduct under investigation, for example, if they include an allegation made by a child or financial impropriety that is the subject of a criminal investigation.

 

9.9                During the period of suspension, unless otherwise informed the employee is:

•                Prohibited from attending his/her place of work other than for the purposes of attending meetings with their representative, investigatory interviews or attending a conduct and discipline hearing.

•                Obliged to co-operate with the disciplinary investigation including any request to furnish or identify documents and attend meetings/interviews.

•                Obliged to ensure that they are and remain contactable during normal working hours.

  •      Permitted to contact work colleagues in a social capacity but must not discuss the case with them.

 

9.10                Annual leave continues to accrue during the period of suspension. In order for an employee to take annual leave during any period of suspension the employee will need to obtain approval from their line manager.

10                Cases of Alleged Criminal Activity

10.1                If an employee is charged with, convicted of or cautioned in relation to a criminal offence not related to work this is not in itself a reason for disciplinary action. The investigation should establish the facts of the case and consider whether the matter is serious enough to be a disciplinary issue. If the criminal offence happened outside work account may be taken of whether the offence:

•                Makes the employee unfit to hold their job

•                Seriously damages trust and confidence in the employee

  • Affects their ability to attend work

•                Could seriously damage the reputation of the Council

10.2                In cases where a possible disciplinary offence may also be a criminal offence (e.g. theft, fraud, serious harassment) the investigating officer must seek advice from HR/Audit/Legal services as appropriate before taking any investigatory action.

10.3                If the allegation involves suspected harm to children, young people or vulnerable adults, the guidance in Appendix 1 must take precedence over this policy and procedure.

10.4                If the allegation involves suspected serious financial irregularity or fraud, the Head of Finance and Commercial must be informed by the Head of Service/delegated officer.

10.5                The Council reserves the right to suspend or continue with any internal investigation pending a police investigation

11                Trade Union Officials

11.1                Formal disciplinary action with regard to an employee who is a recognised trade union official should not take place until a full time official or other appropriate official of the employee's trade union has been informed; this will normally take place at the investigative stage.

11.2                This does not however prejudice the right of the Council to suspend, with pay, the employee pending an investigation.

11.3                 HR should be notified before taking formal action against trade union officials.

12                Witnesses

12.1                As part of any disciplinary investigation the manager/investigating officer may need to ask for evidence from witnesses. Witness evidence (by way of a signed and dated statement) will be disclosed to all the relevant parties if it is to be relied upon as part of the conduct and discipline hearing.

12.2                If an employee is asked to be involved in a disciplinary as a witness, they are expected to fully co-operate with any investigation without unreasonable delay. They will have the opportunity to review and agree the evidence they provide. They will be expected to treat as confidential any information communicated to them in connection with an investigation. In exceptional circumstances, the Council may consider a request to protect their identity but total anonymity cannot be guaranteed.

13                Grievances raised during a Disciplinary Case

13.1                When a grievance is raised during the course of a disciplinary case guidance on how to conduct the investigation should be sought from HR. Where the grievance relates to the disciplinary case it will normally be dealt with as part of the conduct and discipline hearing. Where the grievance is not linked to the case it will be dealt with separately under the Council's Grievance Policy. Consideration may be given to suspending the disciplinary process pending the conclusion of the grievance investigation. Further guidance is contained in the toolkit.

 

14                Conclusion of the Investigation

14.1                At the conclusion of the investigation, the Manager/Investigating Officer will compile a report, using the report template, for the Head of Service/delegated officer who commissioned the investigation with a copy to HR. The report will summarise the investigation findings including detailing any evidence and witness statements and set out recommendations. The Manager/ Investigating officer may recommend one or a combination of the following:

  •    There is no case to answer,
  • Any concerns can be addressed through informal management guidance, mediation or counselling,

•                There are potential grounds for disciplinary action, in which case the employee will be invited to a conduct and discipline hearing.

14.2                The Head of Service/delegated officer will decide, in consultation with HR, whether or not to proceed to a conduct and discipline hearing. He/she will then write to the employee with the outcome of the investigation.

14.3                If it is decided to proceed to a conduct and discipline hearing the employee will be written to advising them of details of the allegations made against them and the basis for those allegations. They will also be advised of the potential action that may be taken if the allegations are founded. The employee will be provided with copies of any evidence that is being considered as part of the conduct and discipline hearing.

14.4                                Where the allegation is of gross misconduct or the employee has a current warning on file for similar conduct possible sanctions include a final written warning or dismissal. In these circumstances the hearing will be chaired by a Head of Service, as a minimum level. In addition the panel will include a second Head of Service and will be supported by an HR Advisor in an advisory capacity.

14.5                                Where it is considered that a formal conduct and discipline hearing is not necessary, the Head of Service/delegated officer will provide written feedback to the employee and any informal management guidance will be discussed and agreed. Should new information come to light, where appropriate, the investigation may be re-opened.

15                 Notification of the Hearing

15.1                The Chair of the hearing will write to the employee to notify them at least five working days in advance, of the requirement to attend a conduct and discipline hearing. The letter will advise the employee of the following:-

•                The location, date and time of the proposed conduct and discipline hearing

•                Details of the disciplinary allegations which the employee is to face

•                Whether dismissal is being contemplated as a sanction

•                Their right to be accompanied                               

•                The identity of the panel members

  • The names of any witnesses management intend to call
  • Whether a note-taker will be present

•                The requirement for the employee to confirm in writing that they are attending, at least 3 working days before the conduct and discipline hearing, providing all relevant documentation and confirming the names of their employee representative and any witnesses that are likely to be called.

15.2                The employee will also be provided with copies of any documents, known as the bundle, that will be relied upon at the conduct and discipline hearing, at least 5 working days before the hearing, (see Section 15 of the toolkit for suggested contents).

15.3                The conduct and discipline hearing will not take place unless and until the employee has had proper opportunity to consider the information supplied to him/her. An employee who requires further time to prepare his or her case may make a request in writing to the Chair of the Hearing, normally within two days of receiving notification of the hearing, asking for the conduct and discipline hearing to be held at a later date, normally within five working days of the date of the original hearing.

15.4                The employee is under a duty to take all reasonable steps to attend the hearing. The conduct and discipline hearing may proceed in the employee's absence but only when all of the following conditions are met:

•                The employee has either failed to attend one previously scheduled conduct and discipline hearing (or failed to respond to two notifications to attend a conduct and discipline hearing).

•                The employee is on notice that the conduct and discipline hearing may proceed in their absence.

•                The employee has been informed of the opportunity to provide a written statement setting out their defence to the allegations.

15.5                If an employee is unable to attend a hearing as a result of ill health the Chair will consider whether it is appropriate and reasonable to postpone the hearing until they are fit to attend, or whether to hold the hearing in their absence. The employee must be on notice that the conduct and discipline hearing will proceed in their absence and in this situation the employee will be given the opportunity to send a written submission and/or nominate a representative that can attend on their behalf. The employee's representative can be a Union representative or work colleague.

16                Right to be Accompanied               

16.1                At any formal conduct and discipline meeting/hearing the employee has the right to be accompanied by an accredited union representative or work colleague but not a friend, family member, partner or legal representative. The Council will not meet any of the costs associated with the attendance of the representative at a conduct and discipline hearing beyond granting paid time off to a representative who is a Council employee.

16.2                In exceptional circumstances, an employee may request to bring legal representation at a conduct and discipline hearing or appeal hearing. This is only applicable in circumstances where the decision of the conduct and discipline hearing may result in the employee being referred to an external body, as a result of which the employee may lose the right to practice their profession.

16.3                With the consent of the employee, the representative may:

•                Put the employee's case on their behalf

•                Sum up the case

•                Seek clarification of points during the hearing

•                Ask questions of witnesses and the investigating officer

•                Request an adjournment to confer with the employee

•               

                NB:- The representative is not permitted to answer questions on behalf of the employee.

17                Conduct of the Hearing

17.1                At the Conduct and discipline hearing the employee will have an opportunity to respond to the allegations and comment on the evidence that has been gathered, question any witnesses and present any evidence of their own, and give their account of the allegation(s). They can also put forward any mitigating factors that they wish to have taken into consideration.

17.2 In general terms the following format will be adopted (see section 17 of the Conduct and Discipline Toolkit for Managers for more information on the format of the hearing):

  • The management presentation will normally be carried out by the Investigating Officer who shall outline the management case against the employee
  • The Investigating Officer shall call and ask questions of any witnesses or read from the statement of any witnesses he or she wishes to rely on and direct the Chair of the Hearing to any documents to be relied on
  • The employee, the Chair, HR and members of the panel (as applicable) shall have the opportunity to ask questions of any witnesses called
  • The employee shall outline his/ her case in response to the allegations
  • The employee shall give their evidence and call any witnesses or read from the statements of any witnesses they wish to rely on and direct the Chair's attention to any documents to be relied on
  • The Investigating Officer, the Chair, HR and members of the panel (as applicable), shall have the opportunity to ask questions of the employee and any witnesses called by the employee
  • The Investigating Officer and the employee shall have the opportunity to sum up their respective cases if they so wish.
  • The meeting will adjourn for the Chair to consider the outcome

18                Disciplinary Sanctions

18.1                The formal stages of the Disciplinary procedure are based upon a graduated system of warnings with more serious sanctions being applied where poor conduct is repeated or the employee fails to pay heed to previous warnings to modify their behaviour/conduct. The stages are listed below. The seriousness of the offence may result in stages in the process being missed out. An employee will not normally be dismissed for a first breach of discipline. However, in cases of gross misconduct an employee may be dismissed without having had any prior formal warnings as to their behaviour / conduct.

18.2                When deciding whether a disciplinary sanction is appropriate and what form it should take the following factors will be taken into account: the employee's disciplinary and general work record, length of service, the explanation given by the employee (including mitigating circumstances), actions taken in any previous similar case and whether the intended disciplinary action is reasonable in the specific circumstances of the case. Actions which may be taken include:

  • First Written Warning

                The warning will normally be current for 12 months and whilst 'live' may be taken into consideration in any future disciplinary action

  • Final Written Warning

                The warning will normally be current for 18 months and 'whilst live' may be taken into consideration in any future disciplinary action

  • Dismissal with notice
  • Dismissal without notice

                Other Actions

18.3                The Council also reserves the right to take a range of actions in addition to formal warnings or as an alternative to more serious disciplinary action depending on the circumstances of the case. Such actions may include withholding annual pay increments or other pay supplements, demotion for a specified or unspecified period or transfer to an alternative job or location with or without a reduction in the contractual rate of pay.

18.4                The Procedure also allows for the following hearing outcome:-

               

                No Further Action

                Where it is considered there is no case to answer

               

19                Confirmation of the outcome of the conduct and discipline hearing

19.1                Whether or not the employee has been informed of the outcome of the conduct and discipline hearing orally at its conclusion, the employee will be notified of the outcome of the conduct and discipline hearing in writing. Written notification will normally be within 5 working days of the date of the hearing and will include:

  • The reasons for finding any allegation(s) of misconduct proved or not
  • The details of any disciplinary sanction applied
  • If the disciplinary sanction is by way of warning, the nature and type of the warning and the date of its expiry
  • A warning as to the potential consequences of further misconduct of a similar or different nature
  • Any specific requirements for future conduct
  • Any specific requirements in respect of training to be undertaken
  • If the disciplinary sanction is dismissal, the reason(s) for dismissal
  • Any right of Appeal, giving the name of the person to whom the appeal should be addressed and the timeframe for lodging it.

20                Right of Appeal

20.1                An appeal can be made in relation to any formal disciplinary sanction. Grounds for appeal may include: procedural flaws, new evidence that was not available at the time of the original hearing, undue severity, or inconsistency of the penalty. An appeal must be made in writing to the Corporate Director or designated officer, with a copy to HR, within 10 working days of receipt of the written confirmation of disciplinary action and should detail the grounds of appeal.

20.2                If the employee, for whatever reason appeals outside of the specified time limit he/she shall include with his/her letter of appeal an explanation for why the appeal is being presented late. In such circumstances the decision as to whether to hear the appeal or not shall rest with the Corporate Director or designated officer.

20.3 Appeals will be heard by an individual or panel not involved in the original conduct and discipline hearing and advised by a representative from HR. The appeal is normally a rehearing of the case to provide the employee with a further opportunity to ensure that the full and correct facts are considered. Consideration will be given to any new evidence which may be presented and to the conclusions reached by the original hearing. The individual or panel who are hearing the appeal will consider whether the original decision was a reasonable response given the circumstances of the case.

20.5                Appeals against dismissal will be heard by a panel of 3 elected members from the Regulatory and Appeals Committee who will be advised by an HR representative and a Senior Manager not previously involved in the case.

20.6                The outcome of the appeal may be to:-

  • Confirm the original decision
  • Overturn or partially overturn the original decision and apply a lesser sanction
  • Overturn the original decision in full

20.7                The decision of the Appeal Panel is final.

21                Expiry of Warnings

21.1.                At the end of the warning period all reference to the warning will be removed from the HR file and destroyed. In cases of misconduct during the unspent period which results in further disciplinary measures the previous records will remain on file until the expiry of the subsequent warning.

21.2 There may be circumstances where it is necessary for disciplinary records to be kept for an extended period. For example, in cases which involve abuse of children or vulnerable adults or serious harassment. Extension of warnings is subject to the authorisation of the Head of HR in consultation with the Chair of the disciplinary panel.

                NB: formal warnings should state the reasons for the warning, the consequences of further misconduct and the length of time the warning is to be retained on file.

22                Employee Assistance Programme

22.1                Confidential advice and support is available to employees from the Council's Employee Assistance Programme (EAP). The EAP is available to support all employees with confidential and impartial advice regarding workplace issues and counselling either over the phone or in person. Contact details are available on the intranet.