LRD Booklets September 2012

Disciplinary and grievance procedures - a practical guide for union reps

Introduction

Introduction

This LRD booklet is intended to provide practical advice and support for reps of members who are facing a disciplinary or considering whether to lodge a grievance.

The work of reps in advising and representing members in formal hearings has never been more important, both on an individual and a collective level. The practical reality is that what happens in internal disciplinaries and grievance meetings is generally far more significant, in terms of providing workers with the best chance of keeping their jobs or addressing their concerns, than what takes place at a later stage before an employment tribunal. Only a small minority of cases ever reach the employment tribunal, and, of those that do, in the 12 months to March 2011, only eight employees were awarded reinstatement.

As part of its continuing onslaught on individual employment rights, the coalition government recently confirmed that, from summer 2013, a sacked worker will have to pay a fee of £1,200 to pursue an unfair dismissal claim. In this context more workers are beginning to appreciate that individual employment rights alone cannot be relied on to provide adequate protection when confronting workplace problems, and that increasingly the solution lies with collective organisation, solidarity and strength. Good individual representation is one key aspect of this.

The visible support and reassurance reps can offer to individual members can also help organise and build union presence in the workplace more generally.

Reps also play a vital wider role by making sure employers follow their own policies openly, consistently and fairly and by helping to develop improvements to those policies when deficiencies are revealed by the disciplinary or grievance process.

The booklet is divided into 14 short Chapters, covering the following issues:

• Chapter 1 sets out the key provisions of the 2009 Acas Code of Practice on Discipline and Grievance;

• Chapter 2 contains practical guidance on negotiating disciplinary procedures;

• Chapter 3 looks at the difference between informal and formal procedures;

• Chapter 4 contains practical guidance on supporting members during an investigation, including the rules on surveillance evidence and anonymous evidence;

• Chapter 5 summarises the rules governing suspensions;

• Chapter 6 contains practical guidance on getting ready for the hearing;

• Chapter 7 deals with practical arrangements for the conduct of the disciplinary hearing as well as summarising some of the key arguments available to reps;

• Chapter 8 summarises the law on the right to be accompanied;

• Chapter 9 looks at disciplinary penalties and possible arguments to use in mitigation. It also looks briefly at the issue of references in the context of disciplinary action;

• Chapter 10 concerns the appeal process;

• Chapter 11 looks at grievance procedures;

• Chapter 12 looks at organising around grievances and disciplinary issues;

• Chapter 13 summarises the joint TUC/Acas guidance for reps on when a dispute is most likely to be suited to mediation; and

• Chapter 14 warns of the risks presented by the government’s proposals to undermine the formal dispute resolution processes set out in this booklet, by means of the “protected conversation”, and why this must be resisted.

The booklet provides relevant examples from tribunal decisions (case law) throughout.

LRD Enquiry line

As well as its booklets and other publications, the LRD runs a telephone advice line for affiliated organisations, providing day-to-day advice to reps who are supporting members preparing for disciplinary or grievance meetings. The telephone number is: 0207 928 3649. Alternatively, email the LRD at: info@lrd.org.uk or use the web form at www.lrd.org.uk/index.php?pagid=51. If your branch is not already affiliated to the LRD, please use the same telephone number or email address for details about how to do this or see www.lrdpublications.org.uk/affiliations.php