So you've been called into a disciplinary meeting. It's an unnerving situation, but the best thing you can do is stay calm and prepare for it, and you've come to the right place. For assistance in seeking the help of a professional HR consultant, get a hold of us today at HR Coach and obtain legal advice.
In this article, we'll guide you through your employee rights in disciplinary meetings to ensure you're up to date and aware of everything you can and can't do within the disciplinary meeting.
What is an employee disciplinary meeting?
Disciplinary meetings are formal meetings organised by your employer to address and discuss concerns regarding your work performance. The 'employee's performance' could refer to anything related to their execution of work-related tasks or their behaviour in the workplace.
Setting up an employee disciplinary meeting aims to discuss the allegations and collectively agree on a viable solution. These types of meetings should include reasonable steps to help the employee meet expectations, and this is not an opportunity to blame an employee.
To ensure the employer or staff makes no mistakes, it's vital to know each party's rights and responsibilities in the situation to ensure procedural fairness and avoid an unfair dismissal claim.
Employee rights in a disciplinary meeting:
As an employee, you have the right:
To bring a support person to their disciplinary meeting in line with the Fair Work Act 2009
To ask for a different time due to the lack of notice
To respond to the allegations
To have your support person take notes
To call for a break during the meeting at any time should you wish to speak with your union support person without management present
To call for a break when feeling overwhelmed and emotional
Why does it help to have a support person present?
One right you need to be aware of is that you are allowed to have a support person in your disciplinary meeting. This doesn't just have to be someone who is a part of your union; they could be a fellow employee, a friend or even a family member. Essentially, they are an external person who doesn't have a conflict of interest.
Having a friend or family member present can be excellent for an emotional support person. Still, unless they're confident and experienced with standing up for your rights as an employee, they won't be much help regarding legal assistance.
Bringing a union representative as your support means you have someone in your corner who can ensure the meeting is handled in a straightforward, fair and honest manner. Your support person may provide moral support; however, they are not allowed to act as your speaker or representative.
Remember, employers cannot deny an employee's request to bring a support person because if they do, it leaves them at risk of an unfair dismissal claim filed against them.
Should you need any extra information or seek legal advice and help from a professional HR consultant, then get a hold of us today at HR Coach.
What to do if you're called for a disciplinary meeting?
When attending disciplinary meetings, there are specific procedures that you can expect before, during and after. Here's what you can expect:
Before your disciplinary meeting
Before your meeting, your employer must provide you with reasonable notice about the hearing. This may come as a letter of allegation, which will put all the details of the allegations against you as the employee in writing and may have supporting evidence to support their claims.
Your employer may notify you that you can bring a support person. However, they are not obliged to; it is up to you to request a support person in writing before you go into the meeting.
There are valid reasons why you may not attend a disciplinary meeting, and it's good to understand what to do. Should you be called into a hearing that will take place in less than 24 hours, you have the right to ask for another time due to lack of notice.
Should a meeting be requested in more than 24 hours, you can still request a different time if it is planned outside of work hours, while you are on leave or if it's not on a rostered day. Another reason you may request another time is if you need more time to find a support person.
During your disciplinary meeting
The people present at your disciplinary meeting will be your manager and a person from Human Resources (HR). The meeting will begin, and employers will discuss allegations, which will be read out loud, and supporting evidence will be presented. It's best to wait until all the allegations have been read before you respond.
Throughout the disciplinary process, you will have the right:
To respond to the allegations that have been brought against you
Have a support person present and take notes (which is recommended)
To call for a break if you feel emotional or overwhelmed
To call for a break if you would like to speak to your support person without management present for moral support and advice
In order to safeguard yourself throughout the meeting, you do not have to answer questions your employer hasn't asked you and never admit to allegations without consulting your union. All you have to do is give short, honest and polite answers – your support person should help you keep to this. It's crucial not to lie, as dishonesty can always be used to get you fired.
After the disciplinary meeting
When your responses regarding the allegations are not substantial, your employer may find it necessary to call a response meeting. This is where you can provide evidence to back up your responses. Remembering that ALL discussions and outcomes during disciplinary meetings must be documented and shared with all participants is essential.
A few different potential outcomes might result from a disciplinary meeting.
A show cause letter
You might receive This letter from your employer after the meeting when they believe the more serious allegations against you show serious misconduct and are enough to terminate your employment. This generally occurs in more extreme circumstances. Your first action after receiving a "show cause" letter is to contact your union to help you respond in a way that can explain why you should keep your job.
A written or verbal warning
Per receiving a written or verbal warning, you can contest it with a valid reason and the help of your support person.
A Performance Improvement Plan (PIN)
This plan is established to provide you with the necessary training and support to help you succeed at your job. Talk to your support persons if you don't agree with all the terms of the PIN, as you will need to comply with it, and it's best to raise your concerns as soon as possible.
Is there such a thing as the "three strikes" rule?
Everyone has heard the saying, "Three strikes, you're out", and this is often thought of as a rule in business, but unfortunately, it's just a myth. Under no circumstances is an employer required to give three warnings before letting you go.
However, they must give you a fair dismissal, so they can't just fire you without warning or cause. Should you feel that you were unfairly dismissed, you must lodge an unfair dismissal claim within 21 days of your dismissal.
Can I refuse to attend a disciplinary meeting?
No. Failure to attend a formal disciplinary meeting without a reasonable excuse means the meeting will continue without you, and you will not have the opportunity to defend your case.
What is the Fair Work Act?
The Fair Work Act is one of the main Commonwealth statutes governing mature-age employees. It regulates the "national system" of employers and employees and addresses participation by workers in proposals made by the Australian Law Reform Commission (ALRC), which includes:
General protection provisions
The right to request flexible work arrangements
Provisions regarding notice of employment termination