The University of Sheffield Disciplinary Procedure: A Guide for Staff

Introduction

This guide is intended to explain the disciplinary process, the roles and responsibilities of those involved, and the support mechanisms that are available. It is important that this guidance is read in conjunction with the University's Disciplinary Procedure.

The Disciplinary Procedure relates to matters of misconduct, that is to say, inappropriate behaviour in the workplace (some examples of what this could include are provided in paragraph 11 and 12 of the disciplinary procedure).

The Disciplinary Procedure is intended to ensure that allegations of misconduct are managed fairly and consistently. The disciplinary process is not punitive in nature, instead, its aim is to provide staff with appropriate advice and support which will equip them to achieve and maintain the standards of conduct expected at the University. Wherever possible, disciplinary matters are managed informally. Formal action will only be taken in cases of serious and/or repeated misconduct.

Informal action

Informal action will be taken in the form of a confidential conversation between yourself and your manager, and is most appropriate where alleged misconduct is not of a serious nature. Your manager will explain the problem and describe the improvement which is needed. Together, you and your manager will explore support mechanisms and ways in which you can achieve the necessary improvement and how this will be reviewed to monitor/assess progress. A record of these discussions may be shared to support the process and/or ensure clarity. Your manager will then review your progress, keeping you informed of any updates.

Investigation

Where more serious misconduct is alleged, or where minor misconduct is repeated, an investigation may be carried out to establish the facts. An investigation can be a simple gathering of relevant documents, or it can involve interviewing yourself and relevant witnesses. If you are interviewed, you will be made aware of the allegation(s) and be given notice of the interview. It is important to make the investigators aware of any special requirements you may have or reasonable adjustments that might be required for you to attend the interview.

You are encouraged to co-operate with any investigation process, and answer any questions as fully as you can, setting out any special circumstances. Where limited facts are provided, it can mean that decisions about possible disciplinary action are reached on the basis of partial information.

Whilst the interview will be informal and thus there is no right of representation, the individual undertaking the investigation may permit you to be accompanied by a companion i.e. a trade union representative or work colleague, if you feel that this would be beneficial. Such requests should be submitted to the investigator, along with the proposed individual’s name/designation, at least 24 hours in advance of any investigation meeting.

Should you wish to provide a written submission or submit any related evidence to assist with the investigation in advance of (or during) the meeting, you may usually do so.

Where an allegation relates to potentially very serious misconduct, employees may be suspended from duty to enable a full and fair investigation to take place. Care will be taken to ensure that any period of suspension is as brief as possible.

When the investigation is complete, a decision is made as to next steps, based on the information gathered. Where it is accepted that you did not break a disciplinary rule, no further action will be taken. Where it is found that there is evidence to support the allegation, a formal disciplinary hearing may be held.

Formal Disciplinary Hearing

At the hearing, a panel will consider all the evidence. You will receive the following in writing at least 7 days before the hearing:

  • Confirmation of the date, time and location of the hearing;
  • A statement of the allegation;
  • Copies of the evidence to be considered;
  • Notice of the people who will attend the hearing;
  • Notice of any witnesses who will attend the hearing; and
  • Notice of the potential outcome.

At the hearing you may:

  • Be accompanied by a colleague or trade union representative;
  • Have reasonable adjustments if you are disabled or have other special requirements;
  • Rely on a written statement of case (a brief summary of the most important points that the panel should consider, including special circumstances); and
  • Call witnesses in support of your case.

Ahead of the hearing you should:

  • Advise the disciplinary panel of your accompanying person (if you wish to be accompanied);
  • Advise the disciplinary panel of any special requirements (e.g. disability, language requirements);
  • Provide a copy of your written statement of case; and
  • Advise the disciplinary panel of any witnesses that you wish to call.

At the hearing, management representatives will present the allegations, and you will have the opportunity to ask questions of them and any witnesses. You will then have the opportunity to present your case. This is typically a summary of the main points set out in your written statement, which the panel will have read in advance of the hearing. The panel and management representatives may then ask questions relating to your evidence, or that of your witnesses.

You can ask for an adjournment at any time during the hearing. A nearby room will be made available for you and your representative should you wish to exercise this option.

The panel may inform you of its decision at the end of the hearing, but it’s more likely that you will be informed of the outcome by letter after the hearing. The panel will dismiss the allegation where it finds there is no supporting evidence or where there is appropriate mitigation. Alternatively, if it finds that the allegations are well founded it may issue a disciplinary sanction, which could be a warning, dismissal, or other sanction short of dismissal. Examples provided within the procedure regarding action short of dismissal include: demotion (an example of this could be the removal from a leadership role), and unpaid suspension (this may be used among other things to facilitate a ‘cooling off’ period or to prevent illegal working whilst clarifying immigration status).

Appeal

You can appeal the disciplinary panel’s decision by writing to the named HR contact identified in the letter notifying you as to the outcome of the hearing. Your appeal should be submitted within 7 calendar days of receipt of the outcome letter, specifying your grounds of appeal. An appeal hearing will be arranged as soon as practicable.

The appeal hearing process mirrors the disciplinary hearing, although it is likely that new panel members will hear the appeal. The decision of the appeal panel is final.

Support during disciplinary proceedings

The University recognises that being involved in a formal disciplinary procedure may be a difficult time for you, however, there are a number of sources of confidential support which are available to you if you wish to use them.

Reasonable adjustments

The University is committed to ensuring that employees and their representatives do not experience any disadvantage because of disability or any special requirements. You are encouraged to raise any queries you may have relating to disability or other needs at the earliest opportunity. This will enable the University to accommodate your request, where reasonably possible.

Further information

If having read the disciplinary procedure, the above guidance and referred to the Managing Performance Toolkit, you still have unaddressed queries, please do not hesitate to contact either your manager or your faculty HR contact for further clarification/procedural advice.