Local Government Ombudsman
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Disciplinary procedure

Introduction

The LGO expects all employees, irrespective of length of service to adhere to its core values, standards and competencies; to treat others with respect and courtesy and to carry out their job and responsibilities effectively. Managers are responsible for ensuring their team achieve and maintain agreed standards of performance and behaviour.

The disciplinary procedure is a formal process which deals with issues relating to unsatisfactory conduct and which aims to help and encourage employees to improve.

The disciplinary procedure supports the ACAS Code of Practice and natural justice and aims to provide a clear and fair process for resolving issues relating to conduct.

Performance and incapacity due to sickness are dealt with under separate policies, the Performance Capability Policy and Sickness Absence Policy Issues relating to bullying and harassment, whistleblowing or other complaints/grievances will be dealt with through the relevant policy unless the case becomes a disciplinary matter and the Disciplinary Procedure will apply.

There are separate arrangements for dealing with issues relating to the conduct of Executive Directors, the Commission Operating Officer and the Ombudsman.

Minor issues of misconduct will normally be dealt with informally by your manager and resolved through discussion and cooperation. However, if the issue is not resolved satisfactorily or is considered serious, the Disciplinary Procedure will apply.

If disciplinary action is taken, this will be confirmed in writing together with the reasons for this and the improvement required in relation to conduct. The LGO will endeavour to resolve disciplinary issues as quickly as practically possible.

The procedure applies to all employees who have been confirmed in post following the successful completion of their probationary period.

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Disciplinary issues within probationary period

If there are concerns about your conduct during the probationary period, your manager will discuss these with you and advise how you need to improve. If there are continuing concerns about your performance or conduct, you may not be confirmed in post.

You may be given notice that your employment will be ended due to unsatisfactory conduct or performance either during or at the end of your probationary period. Issues considered gross misconduct may result in dismissal without notice.

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Principles

Employees will be informed in writing about the disciplinary matter and the allegations made. You will be given copies of any relevant material prior to any action being taken except for suspension. All staff will be given the opportunity to state their case before any decision is made.

In some cases, for example potential gross misconduct, the employee may be suspended for as short a period as practicable whilst an investigation is carried out.

The organisation will not take disciplinary action until the relevant facts have been established and it is agreed that disciplinary action is reasonable in the circumstances.

Before a disciplinary decision is made, your manager will take into account:

  • your disciplinary or general record
  • length of service
  • actions taken in a previous or similar case
  • your explanation
  • any mitigating circumstances, and
  • whether disciplinary action is reasonable in the circumstances.

Any disciplinary action taken will be confirmed in writing stating the reason for the action and what improvement is needed. Disciplinary action will not normally be taken against a Staffside/TU representative without the involvement of a senior representative or full time union official.

Employees will not normally be dismissed for a first disciplinary offence unless it is considered gross misconduct. However, any stage of the disciplinary procedure can be implemented at any time depending upon the seriousness of the alleged misconduct.

Employees may be accompanied at all meetings/hearings if they wish by a Staffside/TU representative, a friend or work based colleague.

There is a right of appeal at all stages of this procedure against any disciplinary action taken.

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Definitions

Misconduct

This relates to unacceptable conduct which will not normally lead to dismissal without previous warnings.

Examples of misconduct include:

  • poor time keeping
  • unauthorised or intermittent absence
  • misuse of the organisation’s resources, eg email, internet, telephones
  • minor breaches of the organisation’s procedures, values and rules, eg sickness notification procedures, and 
  • failure to carry out a reasonable management instruction.

This list is not exhaustive nor exclusive.

Gross misconduct

Gross misconduct is defined as misconduct which is of such a serious nature that the LGO is justified in no longer tolerating your presence at work. An allegation of gross misconduct will normally lead to your immediate suspension from work pending an investigation. If, after due consideration, allegations are substantiated you will be dismissed without notice unless there are mitigating circumstances. Your last day of employment will be the date of the decision to dismiss.

Examples of gross misconduct include:

  • serious failure to comply with or operate the Equality and Diversity Policy
  • unlawful discrimination, harassment or victimisation
  • physical violence or bullying
  • deliberate access to or download of pornographic, offensive or obscene material
  • theft, fraud and deliberate falsification of records
  • deliberate damage to property
  • serious insubordination
  • serious misuse of the organisation’s property or name
  • action or conduct which may bring the organisation into disrepute
  • being under the influence of alcohol, drugs or other abusive substances at work
  • serious negligence which causes or may cause unacceptable loss, damage or injury
  • serious breaches of health and safety rules including deliberate damage or misappropriation of safety equipment; working in an unsafe manner or actions which may put others at risk
  • acceptance of bribes, unauthorised gifts or gratuities or other corrupt practices
  • serious breach of confidence such as disclosure of confidential or personal information to public sources or other unauthorised use of corporate or personal information
  • holding unauthorised paid employment during the time you are being paid by the LGO.

This list is not exhaustive nor exclusive.

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Suspension

Should it be deemed necessary, for a fair and thorough investigation of any matter, you may be suspended on full pay for a specified period. This should be done in consultation with the Head of Human Resources. Suspension is a neutral act. If you are suspended it does not imply guilt and will not in any way prejudice any further management action that may be taken.

Suspension should be for as short a period as possible. If an employee is suspended pending an investigation, the investigation should be carried out within 10 working days where at all practicable and the suspension period should not exceed four weeks.

Suspension may be considered where:

  • the alleged concerns, if proven, could constitute gross misconduct
  • it would be difficult to carry out a full investigation with the employee at work
  • the employee has the opportunity to prevent or hamper an investigation
  • there was a likelihood of further instances to occur if the employee remained at work, for example where a cooling off period is beneficial
  • where staff or others could be at risk, or 
  • where a criminal investigation or proceeding is involved.

Staff may need access to data, other relevant information and contact with colleagues to assist them in preparing their case; permission should be sought from Human Resources before contact with colleagues is made.

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The disciplinary process

When dealing with issues or allegations which may be considered a disciplinary matter, your manager will set out their concerns in writing to:

  • confirm that this is a disciplinary matter
  • detail the nature of the allegations
  • give you notice to attend a disciplinary hearing, and
  • advise you of your right to be accompanied.
     

Your manager will:

  • investigate the issue to establish the facts
  • hold a disciplinary hearing with you to discuss the issues
  • give you the opportunity to respond
  • inform you of their decision
  • confirm any disciplinary penalty given and how long it will remain active, and 
  • advise of your right of appeal.
     

If you fail to attend a disciplinary hearing without good reason, a decision on the disciplinary issue may be taken in the employee’s absence.

Normally five working days written notice will be given to attend a disciplinary hearing, however, in exceptional circumstances, variations to timescales may be unavoidable.

In some cases another manager may be asked to carry out the investigation, for example, where there may be a conflict of interest.

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The disciplinary procedure

Stage 1: written warning

If a matter of conduct has not been resolved informally, you may be given a warning, following a disciplinary hearing with your manager.

The warning must state the reasons as to why it has been issued, how long it will be active for, any other conditions and the consequences of continued misconduct. The warning will normally be active for six months but this timescale may be extended up to 12 months depending on the circumstances.

Stage 2: final written warning

Following a disciplinary hearing you may, in serious circumstances or in the case of repeated misconduct or failure to reach standards of conduct, receive a final written warning. The warning will confirm how long it will be active for; the reasons for the warning or any other conditions. It will also advise that further misconduct may result in dismissal. The warning will be held on your personal file, normally for 12 months although this may be extended up to two years depending upon the circumstances.

Stage 3: dismissal

If, despite previous warnings, conduct remains below the required standard or in a case of gross misconduct, you may be dismissed following a disciplinary hearing. Dismissal may be with or without notice depending upon the circumstances of the case. You will be invited to attend a disciplinary hearing which will be heard by the Executive Director or other senior manager. You will be given the opportunity to state your case prior to any decision being made about your employment situation. A representative from HR will also attend. The Commission must be notified in cases of dismissal and cannot take place without the knowledge and involvement of the Head of Human Resources.

If a decision is taken to recommend your dismissal you will be advised verbally by the chair of the disciplinary hearing. The decision will be confirmed in writing stating the reasons for the dismissal and its effective date. Details of the right to appeal against the decision of the hearing must also be advised in writing, along with the procedure for doing so.

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Right of appeal

You have the right to make a written appeal after any stage of the procedure, except in cases of dismissal, to your manager’s manager. Appeals must be made within five working days of receiving the letter confirming the disciplinary decision.

The grounds for appeal must be clearly stated and should relate to:

  • the fairness of decision, and/or
  • the severity of the penalty, and/or
  • availability of new evidence, and
  • procedural issues.

Appeals against dismissal should be put in writing to the Head of Human Resources within five working days of receiving confirmation of the dismissal. The appeal will be heard by two Commission members with the Head of HR advising the panel. The appeal hearing will be held within 10 working days of receipt of the appeal. The decision of an appeal hearing should normally be given within five working days of the hearing. Appeal decisions are final.

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Witness statements

If there are witnesses to an incident, the investigating manager will interview them and take a statement. If a disciplinary hearing results from an investigation, witness statements will normally be provided to those involved in the disciplinary hearing. Witnesses may be asked to attend hearings in person and may be asked questions about the statement they have made by all parties. If witnesses are called upon, they will be given reasonable notice. If a member of staff on suspension wishes to call witnesses, permission from HR must be obtained before contact is made with other work colleagues. The employee is responsible for arranging attendance at the hearing.

In some circumstances, questions may need to be raised through the panel, for example, relating to bullying, sexual harassment or physical assault. You will be advised if this applies and you will be asked to provide a list of questions to the panel.

If new evidence comes to light and is introduced, an adjournment will be held to give consideration to this.

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Right to be accompanied

You have the right to be accompanied at a disciplinary meeting/hearing by a Staffside/Trade Union representative, a friend or work based colleague but not someone acting in a professional capacity as a legal adviser. The role of the accompanying person is to assist you in stating your case. They may ask questions, respond to views expressed at the meeting and add comments to support your answers to questions, call for an adjournment and will be allowed time to confer privately with you on request. However, they are not allowed to answer questions on your behalf.

Colleagues who act as your companion will be allowed to take paid time off to prepare for and to attend a hearing.

If the person accompanying you to a meeting/hearing is unable to attend on the date specified, the hearing will be rearranged to take place within five working days of the original hearing date.

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Records and confidentiality

A record of all disciplinary meeting or hearings whether formal or informal should be kept and held on the employee’s personal file. Hand written notes of investigations should be retained. Information should be kept confidentially and matters dealt with under this procedure should not be discussed with other work colleagues.

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Warnings

Although a warning may "expire" after the stated period, the record of the warning remains on file. A warning that has “expired” will not be taken into consideration in relation to any further disciplinary action that may be taken.

April 2009

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Date Updated: 05/08/13