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Disciplinary and dismissals for academic support staff

1. Policy

a) The School's aim through this policy is for managers to help and encourage employees to achieve and maintain appropriate standards of conduct, attendance and job performance by means of counselling for improvement as soon as problems arise.

b) Where informal action is not effective or appropriate this disciplinary procedure is a formal means to encourage employees to achieve and maintain appropriate standards of conduct, attendance and job performance. It enables individual cases to be resolved fairly, consistently and in a timely manner. 

2.  Scope of the procedure
  1. This procedure applies to all Academic Support Staff.
  2. The definition of a manager for the purposes of this procedure is any member of the School, including Conveners, with line management responsibility for one or more members of academic support staff.
  3. Employment contracts are governed by civil law, and a disciplinary hearing is an internal business meeting, therefore decisions taken under this procedure will only be made after thorough investigation of the facts presented and where there are reasonable grounds upon which to sustain a belief that the employee is guilty of the misconduct.
3.  Exclusions

a) This procedure does not apply to new employees during his/her review period of employment with the School, or extension thereof (see Review Periods, Guidance for Managers and Employees).

b) This procedures relates to underperformance in terms of conduct, attendance and job performance that would not more appropriately be dealt with under other procedures. Therefore, it does not apply to:

  • underperformance that can be attributed to a lack of capability, whether skill, aptitude, health, physical or mental quality, to do the work the employee was employed to do, that may more appropriately be dealt with under the capability-performance procedure.
  • underperformance that can be attributed to alcohol or drug dependency that may more appropriately be dealt with under the policy on alcohol and drugs misuse at work.
  • underperformance that can be attributed to a medical condition that may more appropriately be dealt with under the Incapacity policy and procedure for Academic Support Staff. If this is the case managers are advised, in the first instance, to read: "Disability: a practical guide for managers and convenors" helpful.
  • underperformance may be due to a disability, such as dyslexia, seek further advice from your HR Partner.

c) Further guidance on how to manage performance and counselling for improvement can be obtained from your HR Partner.

4.  Roles and responsibilities

a) Employees have a responsibility to:

  • attend work regularly and on time
  • perform his/her duties to a satisfactory level
  • comply with reasonable instructions
  • treat all colleagues and managers with respect
  • not to disclose confidential information
  • understand that if his/her conduct, performance or attendance is below a satisfactory level his/her manager has an obligation to address it
  • comply with any training, development or other measures identified that will enable him/her to reach the required level of conduct, performance or attendance
  • advise his/her manager of any issue that is affecting their conduct, performance or attendance, inside or outside of work, including personal, health, or disability issues

b) Managers have a responsibility to:

  • recruit, train and manage staff appropriately, thereby minimising the risk of poor performance
  • set and communicate standards of required conduct, performance or attendance during induction and throughout employment
  • provide feedback on conduct, performance or attendance to every individual they are responsible for
  • address issues of conduct, performance or attendance as soon as they become apparent
  • provide appropriate guidance, support, or assistance to help the individual achieve the required standard of conduct, performance or attendance
  • ensure that actions taken in respect of an individual's work conduct, performance, or attendance are done sensitively, and consistently maintaining confidentiality, dignity and equality of opportunity in accordance with the disciplinary procedure.

To ensure consistency of the application of this procedure managers must seek the advice of your HR Partner before making any decisions.

Should an employee need assistance in understanding either the policy or procedure or any documentation in connection with this, he/she should seek advice from your HR Partner or a trade union representative. HR does not provide employees with specific advice relating to individual circumstance.

5.  Police or other legal proceedings

a) The School reserves the right to take appropriate disciplinary action in circumstances where the police are investigating, or legal proceedings have commenced, should such circumstances or proceedings have a bearing on the employee's performance or contractual obligations. It may be necessary to take such disciplinary action before the outcome of the police investigation or legal proceedings is known.

6.  Suspension from work

a) Suspension is not a disciplinary act, and does not imply that there has been any misconduct. It is a neutral act to allow an effective investigation to take place.

b) Suspension will be on full pay until either a disciplinary hearing is convened, or the investigation discontinued. It will normally occur within one working day of the start of a disciplinary investigation, and be for as short a period as possible. Suspension will usually only be considered in cases of very serious allegations, for example those constituting gross misconduct.

c) However, the School reserves the right to suspend an employee at any stage of a disciplinary investigation, where it emerges that the case is potentially one of gross misconduct, or where conduct of the investigation is being, or may be, affected by the presence at work of the employee. Suspension may also be considered in circumstances where the disciplinary investigation is causing distress to the employee.

d) When suspension of an employee is being considered, the line manager will normally first consult your HR Partner. A manager will then meet the employee and explain the reasons for the suspension. The suspension will subsequently be confirmed, in writing, within three working days of the meeting. In certain cases, it may be appropriate for a manager other than the immediate line manager to undertake the suspension. In such circumstances, the employee will be advised, in writing, of the reasons why this is the case.

7.  Misconduct and gross misconduct

a) The following are examples of misconduct and gross misconduct; they are for indicative or illustrative purposes only and are not exhaustive.

b) Examples of misconduct include:

  •  unauthorised absence and unsatisfactory timekeeping;
  •  failure to maintain satisfactory standards of work or attendance;
  •  refusing to comply with reasonable instructions from a supervisor or manager;
  •  breach of confidentiality, School regulations or conditions of employment.

c) Gross misconduct is conduct serious enough to destroy fundamentally the contract between employee and employer, making any further working relationship or trust impossible. If, on completion of a disciplinary investigation and hearing, the School is satisfied that gross misconduct has occurred, the result will normally be summary dismissal without notice or pay in lieu of notice.

d) Examples of gross misconduct include:

  • acts of theft, fraud or deliberate falsification of records, or use of School premises or assets for personal gain;
  • physical or verbal abuse of a colleague, member of the public or employee of an organisation that has business with the School;
  • the possession of illegal drugs or incapacity due to drunkenness or unauthorised drug taking on School premises or on School business;
  • racial, sexual or other acts of harassment or discrimination, including sexual misconduct on School premises or on School business;
  • acts of gross insubordination, or refusal to comply with legitimate instruction;
  • serious negligence;
  • soliciting or acceptance of bribes;
  • wilful or negligent misuse or damage to School property or the property of employees causing unacceptable financial loss;
  • serious breaches of confidentiality, School regulations or conditions of employment;
  • conviction for an offence outside of work affecting staff or external relations, or the employee's ability to perform effectively in the role for which they were employed.
8.  Counselling for improvement

a) The School recognises that it may, in the first instance, be advantageous to seek to resolve potential problems through counselling for improvement without resorting to disciplinary action unless such problems are sufficiently serious or when counselling for improvement fails.

b) In such circumstances, particular attention will be paid to agreeing defined and measurable performance improvements with the employee. Timescales appropriate to the objectives set will be agreed. Any necessary learning opportunities will be provided to help the employee reach the standard(s) specified. The improvement action plan and any training, coaching or other support to be provided will be confirmed in writing. There should also be a clear indication that disciplinary action might be necessary if there is insufficient improvement.

c) At the end of the agreed timescales, or earlier if it is apparent that the improvements required cannot be achieved, the employee's performance will be reviewed, and a decision taken as to whether any further action is necessary. If the employee's performance has not fully improved, then action will be taken to initiate the formal stages of the disciplinary procedure.

9.  Disciplinary investigations

a) Where an employee's line manager feels that an act of misconduct has taken place, or there is evidence of poor performance or attendance, s/he will advise the employee and begin an investigation. The investigation will normally comprise discussions with the employee and any relevant witnesses about the matters under consideration. Written records of the discussions will be taken and any necessary documentation gathered together. Employees may be accompanied at these meetings by a work colleague.

b) In certain cases, it may be appropriate for a manager other than the immediate line manager to undertake the disciplinary investigation. In such circumstances, the employee will be advised of the reasons why this is the case.

c) Disciplinary investigations will be completed without unreasonable delay given all the circumstances of the case but would normally be within ten working days. However, if an extension proves necessary, this will be agreed by the manager with their HR Partner. The employee will be advised of the reasons why, and the likely timescale for the completion of the investigation. 

d) On completion of the investigation, the line manager will submit a report of his/her findings to the manager who is to hear the case, and all supporting documentation will be appended to the report. A recommendation will be made as to whether there is sufficient reason to consider that a disciplinary hearing should be convened to consider the case against the employee, and if so at which stage. Action may be initiated at any stage, depending on the seriousness of the case.

e) Alternatively, the manager may recommend that no further action be taken against the employee. If no formal action is to be taken or s/he wishes to recommend informal actions, the employee will be notified of this in writing.

f) If disciplinary action is recommended, a disciplinary hearing will be convened.

Disciplinary hearings
10.  Notification procedures and right of accompaniment

a) Where it is considered that a disciplinary hearing is necessary the manager convening the  hearing, shall write to the employee, normally within ten working days of receiving the investigation report, giving five working days notice of the time, date, and location of the disciplinary hearing, and details of the matter to be considered, together with any documentation necessary to prepare his/her  response. This shall normally comprise the line manager's report and any witness statements. This is to allow him/her sufficient time to prepare a response. 

b) The employee shall be advised of his/her entitlement to be accompanied at the hearing by a work colleague or trade union representative. Disciplinary hearings are internal procedures. Therefore, attendance as a companion is restricted to local officials of recognised trade unions or other employees of the School or where appropriate. Solicitors, family members and all other non-employees will be excluded from disciplinary hearings.

c) Should the employee wish to be accompanied or call witnesses, it will be his/her responsibility to provide all the appropriate details, including the date, time and location of the hearing, as well as the details and documentation relating to his/her  case. 

d) The employee shall provide their HR Partner with the names of his/her companion or witnesses at least twenty four hours before the hearing, if appropriate.

e) The companion will be able to confer with the employee during the hearing and will be allowed to address the hearing in order to put forward and sum up the employee's case, respond on the worker's behalf to any view expressed at the hearing and ask questions for clarification of any witnesses. The companion will not be able to answer questions on the employee's behalf.

f) Employees shall take all reasonable steps to attend the hearing and may be accompanied by a work colleague or trade union representative. Should the chosen companion be unavailable on the given date, the employee shall immediately request a postponement by proposing an alternative date and time, which should be within five working days of the given date. Where this is not possible, the employee shall choose an alternative person to accompany him/her to the hearing.

g) If the reason for the employee or companion being unable to attend the hearing is for reasons that were unforeseeable at the time of arranging the hearing, the employee will be notified of a new date, time and location by the Chair of the hearing. The School reserves the right to hold disciplinary hearings in absentia.

h) The circumstances of any action to be taken against a representative of a recognised trade union will be notified to a full time officer of that union.

11.  In attendance

a) The formal stages of the disciplinary procedure (see section 13) are designed to allow a case to progress through the normal management chain, and therefore the line manager's manager will normally chair the disciplinary hearing.

b) In certain cases, such as where a manager is directly involved in the substance of an allegation, it may be necessary for a manager other than the immediate line manager to chair the hearing. In such cases the manager chairing the hearing will be of the same or higher grade, from the same department or service if possible. In such circumstances the employee will be advised of the reasons why this is the case.

c) The manager chairing the hearing will be accompanied by a HR Partner acting as advisor and a second member of the Human Resources Division, who will take a written record of the meeting.

12.  The procedure at disciplinary hearings

a) The Chair will explain the purpose of the hearing, introduce the parties and outline the procedure.

b) The management representative will then present his/her case*.

c) He/she may then be questioned, for the purposes of clarification by the Chair, and through the Chair of the hearing by the employee and the HR representative.

d) The employee or companion will then be invited to state his/her case*.

e) The employee may be questioned, for the purposes of clarification, by the Chair and through the Chair by the management representative and the HR representative. It should be noted that employees, not companions, will be required to answer questions put to them during the hearing.

* Employees and Management Representatives can call witnesses to support his/her case, either during his/her statement or after questioning has taken place. If witnesses are called they may only be present for the period of his/her  statements and questioning. They will be questioned first by the person who called them, then in turn by the other side, the Chair and the HR representative, if necessary. The Chair of the hearing reserves the right to call further witnesses at any stage of the hearing, if he/she feels that it would be helpful to do so for clarification.

f) After each side's case has been presented and each party has had the opportunity to ask questions of clarification, the Chair will ask the employee, and then the management representative to sum up.

g) The hearing will then be adjourned while the facts of the case are considered, and a decision made by the Chair. The hearing shall normally be reconvened on the same day for the decision to be given orally to the employee; however if the Chair requires additional time in making the decision, the hearing may be reconvened the following day.

h) The employee should receive written notification of the outcome within five working days of a disciplinary hearing; this notification shall inform the employee of his/her right of appeal, along with a copy of the Appeals Procedure.

13.  Outcomes of a disciplinary hearing

a) There are four formal stages of disciplinary action available under the formal procedure. Written confirmation of first warnings and written warnings will be retained on the employee's file. However, for the purposes of further disciplinary action, they will have a specific duration, after which they will be removed.

b) If the Chair feels that no formal disciplinary action should be taken or wishes to recommend informal actions the employee will be notified in writing.

Stage 1 - first warning

c) If, following a disciplinary hearing, the Chair finds that poor performance or minor misconduct has occurred, s/he may issue a first warning to the employee. 

d) The warning will be confirmed in writing and a copy placed on his/her personal file for a period of one year. It will include improvements required and timescales. It will warn that action under Stage 2 will be considered if there is no satisfactory improvement and will advise of the right to appeal, along with a copy of the Appeals Procedure.

Stage 2 - written warning

e) This stage applies to more serious acts of misconduct or poor performance, or to a repetition of misconduct or poor performance for which the employee has already received a warning under Stage 1.

f)  The written warning will remain on the employee's file for a period of one year. It will give details of the misconduct/poor performance, the improvements required and timescales. It will warn that action under Stage 3 will be considered if there is no satisfactory improvement and will advise of the right to appeal, along with a copy of the Appeals Procedure.

Stage 3 - final or first and final written warning

g) A final warning would be appropriate for a repetition of an act of misconduct or poor performance for which the employee has previously received a written warning under Stage 2. In these circumstances it would constitute a final written warning.

h) A first and final written warning would be appropriate for acts of misconduct or poor performance so serious that the School would wish to dismiss the employee were they to be subsequently repeated. 

i)  A final, or first and final written warning will remain on the employee's file for a period of two years. It will give details of the misconduct/poor performance, the improvements required and timescales. It will then warn that dismissal under Stage 4 of the procedure will be considered if there is no satisfactory improvement, and will advise of the right to appeal, along with a copy of the Appeals Procedure.

Stage 4 - Dismissal or summary dismissal

j)  Dismissal applies to third, second or first repetitions of minor, serious or major misconduct respectively. Summary dismissal applies to acts of "gross misconduct" only.

Dismissal

k) If conduct or performance is still unsatisfactory after a warning under Stage 3 of the procedure, and upheld at a disciplinary hearing, the employee will be provided with a written explanation of the reasons for dismissal by the hearing manager.

l) The employee will receive pay in lieu of his/her contractual notice, and any other outstanding monies due to them. For calculation purposes, the employee's last day at work will be the date the employee received the outcome of the disciplinary hearing.

Summary dismissal

m) Summary Dismissal only applies to acts of gross misconduct. Because of the nature of alleged acts of gross misconduct, the employee will normally be suspended from work on full pay, whilst his/her line manager completes an investigation.

n) If it is found that an act of gross misconduct has taken place, the employee will be summarily dismissed without notice, or pay in lieu of notice and the decision will be confirmed in writing as in cases of dismissal. The last day of service will be the date the employee received the outcome of the disciplinary hearing.

14.  Appeals and grievances

a) Employees are entitled to appeal against any disciplinary action taken under the disciplinary procedure by using the Appeals Procedure for Academic Support staff.

b) Where a grievance is raised in connection with the disciplinary procedure it will be considered under the Appeals Procedure for Academic Support Staff.

For more information view the disciplinary and dismissals flowchart.

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