Labour Research October 2004

Features: Law queries

Disciplinary hearings

One of our members has been suspended from work because of some complaints that have been made against her by customers and she has a disciplinary hearing coming up soon. We have asked for copies of the complaints but management has refused to provide them. Do we have a right to see them before the disciplinary hearing?

The right for someone to state his or her case is a basic legal principle, and an employee should know the case against them before they attend a disciplinary hearing. Your member's employer should make clear what the allegations are, and generally speaking copies of any documents that are going to be relied upon should be provided in advance of a hearing.

However, this does not necessarily mean that copies of the complaints themselves must be provided - it depends on the nature of the allegations and how much weight the employer gives to the written complaints. The EAT has said that, if an employer relies almost entirely on written statements but does not let the employee see them or tell them exactly what is in them, it would be "very rare" that a resulting dismissal would be fair. The key point is that your member must be aware of precisely what the allegations are that have been made against her.

* Louies v Coventry Hood & Seating [1990] IRLR 324