Disciplinary Policy

This policy and procedure is contractual and forms part of the employment contract for employees at Harrow Council. The associated guidance and forms are non-contractual. The policy may be amended at any time in consultation with the trade unions.

This procedure sets out the process for ensuring that misconduct issues are dealt with in a fair, timely and consistent way whilst supporting the person concerned to improve their conduct to an acceptable standard.

Published October 2015.

1. Introduction

This policy and procedure is contractual and forms part of the employment contract for employees at Harrow Council. The associated guidance and forms are non-contractual. The policy may be amended at any time in consultation with the trade unions.

1.1  The Council aims to provide high standards of service. The values and behaviours of its employees are central to achieving this, and to enabling the Council to maintain an excellent reputation in the eyes of local residents and service users.

1.2  Whenever possible issues of misconduct will initially be handled informally between the manager and the employee, however the formal stages of the procedure may be applied when:

  • informal approaches have not led to the standard of conduct required, or
  • there is a more serious case of misconduct

1.3  This policy is governed by principles of natural justice and employees will be given the opportunity to present their case at all stages of the process. The policy is compliant with the ACAS code of practice and guidance.  It should be viewed as a corrective rather than punitive process.

2. Scope

2.1  The disciplinary policy applies to all directly employed staff including those on fixed term contracts.

2.2  It does not apply to:

  • schools employees
  • public health employees on NHS terms and conditions
  • agency workers, interims, consultants or 'as and when' workers
  • employees in their probationary period

2.3  It is recommended for adoption by School Governing Bodies.

2.4  This policy covers issues of carelessness, negligence, and wilful lack of action, by an employee.  Performance issues relating to an employee's inability to carry out their duties will be addressed using the Performance Management policy and procedure.

3. Principles

3.1  The Council believes that any employee whose standard of conduct gives rise to problems should, in the first instance, be supported by advice, encouragement, guidance, training or increased support.

3.2  The Council is committed to the avoidance of using formal disciplinary procedures and wherever possible by addressing problems as soon as they arise.

3.3  The formal disciplinary procedure will, in most and nearly all cases, only be used when Guidance Meetings have failed to result in the desired improvement or in the case of more serious misconduct once it has been appropriately investigated.

3.4  At every formal stage of the disciplinary procedure, the employee will be advised, in writing, of the nature of the allegation/s against them and will be given the opportunity to state their case. Allegations will be investigated appropriately and employees will be given the opportunity to respond to any allegation. Where a formal warning is given the employee will be provided with reasonable support, advice and guidance, to improve their conduct.

3.5  Mitigating circumstances will be taken into account when considering any action under the formal disciplinary procedure.

3.6  Employees will have the right to be represented by a trade union representative or a work colleague at formal meetings or any meeting with the potential to lead to disciplinary action, for example, an investigation meeting held after an employee has been suspended.

3.7  No employee will be dismissed for a first breach of discipline, except in the case of gross misconduct which may result in summary dismissal i.e. dismissal without  notice or payment in lieu of notice.

3.8  For continued issues of misconduct, disciplinary sanctions will usually progress through from First to Final Warning, ending with Dismissal.  In exceptional circumstances, following advice from HR, a manager may invoke any stage of the procedure if the case of alleged serious misconduct warrants such action.

3.9  Employees will have the right to appeal against any sanction applied as a result of the Disciplinary Procedure being used. In cases of dismissal this includes the right to appeal to elected members.

3.10  No action will be taken against accredited trade union representatives until the matter has been discussed with a full time official employed by the union.

3.11  Any extension to timescales must be discussed and reasonably agreed by both parties.

3.12  Managers will be responsible and accountable for the application of this policy and for their subsequent decisions.

4. Delegations

4.1  Delegations are part of the Council's financial regulations and constitution and any changes will be made through due process and in consultation with the trade unions. In some services across the Council delegated authority may be extended to managers at lower levels.

4.2  Currently managers graded MG1 and above, have authority to:

  • instigate a formal disciplinary investigation and appoint an Investigating Officer
  • issue First and Final Warnings

4.3  Managers graded MG2 and above, have authority to hear appeals against First and Final Warnings.

4.4  Managers graded MG3 and above, have authority to:

  • suspend employees and to delegate authority to suspend
  • dismiss employees for misconduct and gross misconduct, advised by HR

4.5  Managers graded D1 and above have authority to:

  • hear appeals against dismissals, advised by HR

Employees also have an option to choose to have their appeal against dismissal heard by Elected Members, advised by HR.

5. Allegations concerning children or vulnerable adults -   safeguarding

5.1  Where an allegation of misconduct concerns children, young people or vulnerable adults it will be referred to the Local Authority Designated Officer or Safeguarding Adults coordinator within 1 working day before any action is taken. HR will also be advised.

5.2 Allegation of Criminal Actions

Where a criminal offence may have been committed the Council is obliged to report it to the Police and co-operate with the Police in any investigation and/or potential disciplinary issue.

5.3  If the alleged misconduct concerns possible financial irregularities the manager should take advice from internal audit.

5.4  If the allegation concerns possible fraud the manager should seek advice from CAFT (Corporate Anti-Fraud Team).  If the allegation relates to a potentially criminal action the manager should take advice from HR.

6. Confidentiality and record keeping

6.1  Harrow Council will deal with disciplinary matters sensitively and with due respect for the privacy of any individuals involved. All employees must treat as confidential any information communicated to them in connection with an investigation or disciplinary matter.

6.2  Neither an employee, nor their representative or witnesses, may make any electronic recordings of any meetings or hearings conducted under this procedure.

7. Equality and diversity

7.1  When dealing with disciplinary issues, managers will ensure that equality and diversity considerations are taken account of at every stage of the process.

7.2  Reasonable adjustments will be considered fully for employees who have a disability.