Even where an employer has solid grounds to take disciplinary action against an employee, there are far too many instances of awards made by the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) against employers for breach of Fair Procedures i.e. failure to conduct a fair investigation of the workplace incident.
Therefore, it is vitally important for employers to ensure any disciplinary investigation into an employee’s action, is conducted fairly and to a high standard. The WRC places a high bar for employers in such cases.
So, how do employers meet the high standard demanded by the WRC in these circumstances ?
Before commencing any investigation the following check-list should be complied with:
a) Who conducts the investigation? It should not be any person involved in the dispute or incident no matter how minor a part they played. Impartiality is critical.
b) The investigation should confine itself to the facts only and without any comment or opinions expressed.
c) All appropriate people involved should be questioned.
d) On the outcome of investigation, make sure a copy of the decision is given to the employee in writing.
e) Give reasonable notice of the Disciplinary Hearing to the employee and be flexible, within reason, to accommodate a date with the employee. Failure to give the employee reasonable time to prepare could prejudice the employer’s case.
f) The Disciplinary Hearing should clearly set out the allegations made against the employee.
g) List of people attending.
h) Have a note taker present.
i) State the disciplinary sanctions (including dismissal) that apply.
j) State in the Notice of Disciplinary Hearing that the employee has a right to be accompanied and/or represented.
k) Obtain a list of any personnel the employee wants to question at the hearing.
l) Any and all relevant documentation should be supplied.
m) If there is any electronic evidence available, it should be included.
n) Inform the employee of the company’s appeal procedure.
These items may appear numerous but to exclude any could be extremely costly for the employer.
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