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Disciplinary and dismissal

Employers will generally have a formal disciplinary procedure that they should follow. This may be written down and will usually form part of your employment contract or staff handbook. After the disciplinary process, if a decision to dismiss is taken by a manager you should be informed in writing of the reasons, the date your contract will end and your right to appeal.

What is a disciplinary procedure?

If an employer decides to take formal disciplinary action against you for misconduct or poor performance, you should be notified about this in writing. 

This notification should clearly tell you what the problem is and what the possible consequences are. It should also give you details of the time and venue of the disciplinary meeting.

What happens in a disciplinary meeting?

You have a right to be accompanied by a colleague or a trade union representative to a disciplinary meeting. You need to let your employer know in advance who you would like to bring with you to the meeting.

During the meeting you should find out about the complaint against you, look at any evidence, and be able to give your side of the story. If you have brought someone to accompany you, they can say things to support your case, including summing up, but they can’t answer questions on your behalf. You or they may also want to take notes at the meeting.

What happens after a disciplinary meeting?

After the meeting your employer should write to you with the outcome. If misconduct or poor performance is found, they will give you a written warning. If there is further misconduct or your performance doesn’t improve within a set period you will get a final written warning.

The written warning should specify the nature of the misconduct or poor performance, the change required, and the timescale. You should also be told how long the warning is in place for.

Need more help?

If you need further help or advice about a problem at work, contact Acas for their free and expert advice.

What happens if I am dismissed?

If your behaviour amounts to gross misconduct (this would have to be a serious case such as fighting, physical abuse or being drunk at work), your employer can dismiss or suspend you without notice and without any warnings. They should still investigate the matter thoroughly, and you should have a right of appeal.

Unless you have been dismissed for gross misconduct, your employer needs to give you notice. Your notice period will usually be in your contract of employment. The legal minimum (statutory) notice period is:

  • one week's notice if you have worked for the employer continuously for one month or more, but for less than two years
  • one week’s notice for each year if you have been employed for over two years, up to a maximum of 12 weeks for 12 or more years’ employment.

If you decide to appeal, you need to do so in writing to your employer, who should arrange an appeal hearing. This will be similar to the original disciplinary meeting outlined above. After this the employer will make a final decision.

Can I appeal a dismissal?

If you think you have been unfairly dismissed, you need to a lodge a complaint with Employment Tribunal within three months of your dismissal. Compulsory retirement constitutes unfair dismissal, unless your employer can objectively justify it, and their decision can still be challenged at a tribunal.

If you feel you have been dismissed unfairly, or if your employer has not followed the proper procedures for disciplinary or dismissal, you should seek advice as soon as possible from your trade union, Citizens Advice or Acas (the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service), a government-funded service that helps to resolve workplace disputes. You can also consult a solicitor, although you will usually have to pay for this. 

If you started working for your employer since 6 April 2012, then you will need to have worked there for at least two years to be able to take a case for unfair dismissal to the employment tribunal.

Since July 2017, you no longer have to pay to take a case to the employment tribunal. Anyone who has paid fees since July 2013 can apply for a refund.

Further help

There are a number of places you can get advice if you feel unfairly treated.

What is constructive dismissal?

Constructive dismissal is where you are forced to leave a job because of your employer’s behaviour. For example, if they don’t pay you, force you to accept unreasonable changes to your job conditions, or let others harass you.

You should always try to resolve problems with your employer first, but if you can’t and you feel you have a case for constructive dismissal, you should seek advice immediately from your union, Acas or Citizens Advice.

What can I do next?

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Last updated: Jul 21 2020

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