What is a disciplinary meeting at work?
A disciplinary meeting is an opportunity for you to explain your version of the events that have led to an investigation of misconduct at work. There should be a good reason for a disciplinary meeting and the process of the disciplinary action should follow what is outlined in your employment agreement or your workplace’s policies.
What happens at a disciplinary meeting?
Before the meeting, your employer should give you a letter explaining what the disciplinary meeting is for. If the outcome of the disciplinary meeting could be that you lose your job it should say that in the letter. You should have time to find an employment lawyer or employment advocate to get legal advice, and you should be aware that you can bring a support person. At the meeting, you will be given an opportunity to explain your side of the story. Your support person, employment lawyer or employment advocate can speak on your behalf. You will be able to provide evidence to support your side of the story. Your employer should carefully consider your responses before making any decision. The outcome should not be pre-decided. Click here for more info on what to expect at a disciplinary meeting.
What to say at a disciplinary hearing
A disciplinary meeting or hearing is your opportunity to put your side of the story forward. You should be told before the meeting what the problem your employer wishes to discuss is. It’s a good idea to prepare your responses in writing. You can ask your support person to speak for you. If you have any questions about what you are accused of doing you can ask them. You can ask to see the evidence or witness statements. You can provide your own evidence or witness statements to show your side of the story. Remain polite and calm.
Disciplinary meetings can be unpleasant, but they should be done right…
Our simple guide will talk you through all the things you should expect to see when going through a disciplinary process. We have included some handy tips and tricks throughout (should you find yourself at the pointy end of the disciplinary process).
If it’s a “formal” disciplinary process – what should you expect your employer to do?
1. To kick off the disciplinary process you should receive an invitation to a disciplinary meeting letter which clearly outlines the following things:
- What concerns the disciplinary meeting will be addressing;
- What supporting “evidence” they have in relation to those concerns (and this should be provided to you);
- The date, time and location of the disciplinary meeting;
- Who else will be attending the disciplinary meeting;
- That you can bring a support person / representative to the disciplinary meeting; and
- What the potential outcomes of the disciplinary process might be (eg written warning / termination of employment).
It might also let you know that the organisation has an EAP (Employee Assistance Provider – counsellors etc) and advise that if you want to that you can seek assistance from them in relation to the process.
** If you don’t get a letter or if it doesn’t contain the things outlined above, you can (and should) request this information from your employer. You can refuse to attend a disciplinary meeting until they have given you all of this information.
*** If you’re bringing a support person / representative / employment lawyer or employment advocate to your meeting and they’re not available, you can ask for another date so that your person can attend the meeting. An employer must entertain a “reasonable” delay (but reasonable = a couple of days / up to a week).
**** Sometimes it’s helpful to review your organisation’s disciplinary policy / process document. If your organisation doesn’t have one your organisation should ensure that their process meets natural justice and good faith obligations.
2. During the meeting your employer should do the following:
- Take minutes / notes of the disciplinary meeting (you should also take your own notes);
- Provide you with a copy of the notes once the disciplinary meeting is concluded;
- Talk through each of the points raised in the invitation to disciplinary meeting letter and provide any supporting evidence;
- Give you an opportunity to provide a response on each of the concerns raised / supporting evidence (and if there’s a lot of information it might be reasonable for you to take it away to consider before providing a response);
* Not ask you to respond to allegations or concerns which aren’t outlined in the invitation to disciplinary meeting letter;
* Follow the process that’s outlined in the organisation’s disciplinary policy / process;
* Talk you through the potential outcomes of the process and give you an opportunity to respond;
* Genuinely consider the information that you provide in your response;
* Take an adjournment prior to making any decision; and
* Not have any pre-written decision letters which they give to you at the first disciplinary meeting.
** It’s recommended that either you (or your support person) take notes, as this becomes your record of the conversation. These may become important if there is a dispute that arises around the content of the meeting. If it’s just you, and you want to record the meeting, make sure you ask your employer if they’re ok with a recording of the meeting being made.
*** Be honest! There’s nothing worse than being caught in a lie. If it becomes clear that you may have been dishonest, your employer can reissue the invitation to meeting letter and include an allegation of dishonesty (which is considered by most organisations to constitute serious misconduct and can be the basis for a claim (by your employer) that the inherent trust in the employment relationship is broken – opening the door to the termination of your employment).
**** In some instances (where the issues are minor) it may be appropriate for your employer to provide an outcome after they have taken an adjournment within the same meeting. For more serious matters (or where the organisation is considering a final written warning or termination of employment) it would be expected that they take an overnight adjournment.
***** The outcome that you receive from this process should match one of the potential outcomes indicated on the invitation to meeting letter. If your outcome is different to what was indicated (you get a final written warning but the letter says up to a written warning) you should raise this with your employer immediately.
3. Following the meeting your employer should:
- Supply you with an outcome letter that outlines the meeting process, the discussions that were had and the things that were considered by the organisation prior to making their decision;
- Identify what happens next (especially if there’s something in addition – like extra monitoring or reviews) and specify when those things will happen;
- Keep the process and the outcome confidential (no one who wasn’t involved in the process should know that it was going on) – you need to keep it confidential too; and
- Ideally they should tell you that the matter is now closed and that everyone moves forward from this point.
What should you do?
- Be honest!
- Remember that you want to maintain your employment relationship – this was an organisation you wanted to work for and want to (ideally) keep working for!
- Be honest (this one’s important!)
- If you don’t have all the information you need to provide a full response – ask for it!
- If there’s anything you don’t understand – ask for clarification!
- If you can, take a support person (e.g. an employment lawyer, employment advocate or friend or family member) – when you’re in the middle of a disciplinary process it can be difficult to think straight and make the best decisions.
- There’s nothing wrong in asking for help – talk to a trusted friend or family member, call Work Law for advice.
Work Law provides representation services for disciplinary meetings at an hourly rate – call 0800 669 466 and our advocates can talk through your issue and work out the right solution for you.
She is currently undertaking a law degree through the Auckland University of Technology (AUT).
Need some pro tips about how to approach a disciplinary meeting?
Watch our helpful explainer video for some expert advice.
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