Meetings that are held to discuss whether or not an employee has misbehaved can be tense.
The employee, on the one hand, is keen to avoid losing their job or facing any other disciplinary action.
On the other hand, just as often, the employer is keen not to put a procedural foot wrong in case they open themselves up for a personal grievance.
The tension might be relieved a little if there were a structure for the employer to follow that reminded everyone of the purpose of the meeting: that it is, first and foremost, a meeting to hear the employee’s response to the allegations.
A SUGGESTED MEETING STRUCTURE
Below is a suggested structure you might want to follow next time you have to run a disciplinary meeting. (This assumes you have informed the employee fairly of what the meeting is about. For details about how to do that, see this step-by-step guide.)
- Welcome and introductions. Open the meeting by ensuring everyone knows who is present and why. There is nothing more disorienting for an employee than to have someone present that they have never met before.
- Remind them why you are there. You are there to hear the employee’s responses to the allegations that you have raised with them previously. You should remind them that this is their opportunity to present their response to those allegations and that you will not be making up your mind until you have heard everything they want to say. That will reassure them that you intend to act fairly and that what they have to say may very well affect the outcome of what you decide to do.
- Confirm they have a support person. This will be easy to do if someone has joined them in the meeting. If they have attended alone, be sure to ask them whether they have had the opportunity to get advice or obtain support, and do not proceed unless they confirm they are happy to do so.
- Confirm that they have had an opportunity to review the information provided. Ask them whether they have received and read through the information you have already given to them. Check if there is anything else they would like to see or if they have any questions about what you have provided.
- Remind them of the allegations. At this point, you should just say that you intend to reiterate what has been alleged. You can do that by reading through the key parts of the letter that outline the allegations and refer again to the evidence that there is in support. That refreshes everyone’s minds about the subject of the meeting.
- Listen. Now give the floor over to them and tell them that it is their opportunity to say whatever they wish. Listen actively – that is, if needed, ask questions to clarify anything they have said. Have someone take notes, or consider making an audio recording.
- Summarise. Once they have finished saying all they need to, confirm that they have nothing else to add before going on to summarise briefly what you have heard them say. When you have done that, ask them if you have fairly summarised their response in their view.
- Set out the next steps. Tell them that you will be considering very carefully what they have said before reaching any conclusions. If you think you will need to talk to other people to corroborate the employee’s response, tell them that you intend to do so and that this may affect the timeframe for reaching a decision. Otherwise, give the employee a sense of when you think you will be able to come to a decision and arrange the next meeting, or say that you’ll be in touch to make arrangements.
A FULL STEP-BY-STEP GUIDE
To help you, I have put together this full step-by-step process that you can use as a framework for investigating allegations of misconduct, including not only running the disciplinary meeting, but also raising the allegations with the employee and inviting them to that meeting.