The Disciplinary Hearing

Holding a Disciplinary Hearing with an employee you suspect of misconduct is a key element of the ACAS Code of Practice into Disciplinary and Grievance Matters. The Disciplinary Hearing is part of a fair procedure, whereby individuals are given the right to state their case before a decision is made.


This page was firstly published on 17 June 2018 and the last update was 28 October 2021.

A disciplinary hearing provides the opportunity for the employee and manager to engage in a full and frank two-way discussion about the matter under review. The hearing allows the employee to put forward their side of the story and/or provide an explanation. There should be agreement about the means of achieving an improvement in the individual’s performance or conduct, or of ensuring that there is no repeat of the misconduct. A decision about whether or not to impose a penalty will also need to be taken.

The disciplinary Hearing has a number of main objectives:

  • To ensure that the employee fully understands how they have fallen short of the required standard.
  • To explore reasons and give the employee the opportunity to state their case and offer any mitigation.
  • To discuss and agree remedial action.
  • To ensure that the employee understands any sanctions which are applied.
  • To explain the consequences of a failure to improve.
  • To inform the employee about their right of appeal.

Role of the Disciplinary Hearing Manager

The Hearing Manager has overall responsibility for the running order of the disciplinary hearing and determining the most appropriate outcome from the evidence provided to the hearing. On determining the outcome the Hearing Manager must be prepared to support their rationale for the decision at any appeal hearing.

Key Responsibilities of the Disciplinary Hearing Manager

  • Hear the case at the disciplinary hearing;
  • Inform the employee of the decided outcome with the rationale and ensure this is confirmed in writing;
  • Decide how to proceed should the employee concerned wish to resign from their employment prior to attending a disciplinary hearing. The decision on whether to proceed with a hearing is the responsibility of the Hearing Manager. When determining the decision, the risks need to be assessed. If the resignation is not accepted with immediate effect the employee may still resign with notice and the hearing may proceed during the notice period.
  • Place a copy of the written outcome on the employees personal file;
  • Should the employee appeal, prepare a presentation on how the decision was reached in readiness for the appeal hearing;
  • Present the rationale for the decision to the appeal panel, responding to questions asked by the panel and the employee and/or their representative.

Planning the Disciplinary Hearing

The hearing should be held at a reasonable time and place, in a private meeting room during the employee’s normal working hours. Sufficient time should be allowed between sending the letter and the meeting itself for the employee to consider the allegations and the evidence sent with the letter, and to prepare their case for the hearing. The length of this period will depend on the nature of the allegations and the complexity of the case but in most cases a period of (2 to 5) working days will be appropriate. Reasons for any further delay should be explained to the employee.

The disciplinary hearing should ideally be conducted by a single manager or a panel with one individual appointed as the chair. The chair should not have been involved in the investigation whether as an investigator or witness. Bear in mind also that someone else within the organisation, preferably a more senior manager, may also be required in due course to hold any subsequent appeal hearing. In more complex matters it may also be appropriate to have a HR professional present in an advisory capacity.

There should also be someone present who can make notes of the hearing. They should ideally not have been previously involved. The employee should be provided with a copy of these notes following the disciplinary hearing.

At the start of the hearing, the chair should introduce those present, explain the purpose of the meeting and, if the employee is unaccompanied, remind them again of their right to be accompanied.

If the employee is disabled, the issue of reasonable adjustments should already have been addressed. However, a final check may be made.

The chair should ask if the employee is satisfied with the arrangements for the hearing, and has received, read and understood all the necessary documents, including the disciplinary procedure, any report of the investigation, and the witness statements. The employee should then be taken carefully through the allegations that have been made and all relevant evidence.

The employee should then be given the opportunity to make any representations, ask questions and produce or discuss documentary evidence in reply.

There is no need to call all relevant witnesses to the hearing and the matter can be dealt with by witness statements alone if the employee has not asked for witnesses to be called. However, the employee should usually be allowed to call relevant witnesses to the hearing if they wish. The law does not generally require the chair to allow court-room style cross-examination of witnesses. The employee should be allowed to raise points in response to anything a witness has said. (However, if your internal procedures allow cross examination then this procedure should be followed.)

The employee’s representative (if any) can make statements and ask questions on the employee’s behalf. The representative should not be permitted to answer questions that have been put to the employee directly, although they may confer privately with the employee before any reply is given.

Regard should be had to the fact that employees and witnesses may be under significant stress as a result of the hearing, and therefore may become visibly distressed and/or aggressive. The chair should be sensitive to this and, if necessary, make sensible use of adjournments for “time out” and to allow the individuals concerned to regain their composure.

Once the employee has presented their case the chair should summarise the information put forward on both sides and request any necessary clarification from the employee.

Making A Decision

In a disciplinary hearing, the relevant burden of proof is the balance of probabilities, effectively a 51% more-likely-than-not standard, and not the criminal beyond-all-reasonable-doubt 99% requirement. That 51% belief must be a belief held not just genuinely but also reasonably.

Download the Model Framework for Conducting a Disciplinary Meeting Now!

Green ArrowMy Model Framework for Conducting a Disciplinary Meeting provides advice on how to structure a formal disciplinary hearing. It is designed to be used as a check list to ensure that meetings are conducted on an appropriate basis.

  • Preparation
  • Attendance
  • Introduction
  • The Case for the Employer
  • The Case for the Employee
  • Cross Examination
  • Witnesses
  • New Facts
  • Re-examination
  • Final Statements
  • Adjournment
  • Consideration of the Case
  • Decision

Download the Model Framework for Conducting a Disciplinary Meeting Now!

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The Disciplinary Hearing