Your employer might have offered you a settlement agreement and mentioned that if you don’t sign it, the only other alternative will be to take you through a disciplinary process.
If you decide not to sign the settlement agreement, your employer can take you through a disciplinary process if they are dissatisfied with the standard of your work, your behaviour at work or your absences from work.
Employment disciplinary process
If your employer decides to take disciplinary action against you, they will have to write to you explaining the reason why the action is being taken. They should also follow a written disciplinary procedure that is available to all employees and explains the process, as well as the types of behaviour that can lead to disciplinary action being taken.
Your employer might follow the code of conduct from ACAS or they might have their own disciplinary procedure. If they don’t comply with the steps required by law to carry out a disciplinary process, you might be able to take them to the Employment Tribunal.
Your employer should start the disciplinary process by investigating what has happened. You may be invited to an investigation meeting where you might be asked to explain the reasons for your behaviour or what has happened. You are not entitled to bring a companion with you if the purpose of the meeting is just to find out what has happened.
What is a disciplinary hearing?
After the investigation has been completed, your employer will have to write to you explaining what you have done wrong and inviting you to a meeting to talk about it.
This meeting is often called a disciplinary hearing. You should be able to use the details explained in the letter to prepare a response that you will need to present to your employer as a defence in the disciplinary hearing.
Your employer’s letter should also say that you have the right to bring a work colleague or a trade union representative as a companion with you to the hearing. Your companion can speak to you at the hearing but is not allowed to answer questions for you.
You should be given a chance at the hearing to explain the reasons for your behaviour.
After the disciplinary hearing, your employer should write to you explaining what has been decided. The disciplinary action that your employer decides to take against you might be a written warning or a final written warning. If it is a more serious case, you could be demoted or dismissed.
Appealing against disciplinary
You should also be given the chance to appeal the decision if you don’t agree with it. An employment solicitor will be able to tell you if the decision made by your employer is fair or if you should appeal against it.
You don’t have to appeal it if you don’t want to, but it’s a good idea to do so if you decide later to make a claim at the Employment Tribunal against your employer, as this can affect the amount of compensation you receive if you win.
You will have a far stronger chance of winning a case at the Employment Tribunal if you receive advice from an employment solicitor.
Being subjected to a disciplinary process can be an extremely traumatic ordeal and in certain cases, it might be better for you to accept a settlement agreement from your employer.
You will need to receive settlement agreement advice from an employment solicitor who will be able to tell you if the terms being offered to you are fair or not.
If they are not fair, your employment solicitor can negotiate with your employer for better terms and more compensation. Your solicitor can also see to it that you are given a reference with an agreed form of wording to help you secure another job more easily.
With over 10 years of experience in employment law matters, David Philip Harris specialises in providing legal advice on settlement agreements to both employees and employers throughout the UK. David’s opinion and advice are frequently sought after as he contributes often to BBC Radio Berkshire and the People Management Magazine. David Is a long-standing member of The Employment Lawyers Association and The Law Society.