1. Purpose of the policy and procedure
Disciplinary rules are important for the running of the University so that everyone understands what is expected of them and operates safely and lawfully, with dignity and respect for all. The University expects all of its staff to follow all of its rules, policies, codes of practice and procedures at all times. Disciplinary procedures are necessary so that employees who breach the rules of conduct expected by the University are treated reasonably, consistently, objectively and fairly in every case. This policy and the University’s Dignity & Respect Policy and Procedure set out the expected behaviour of all staff.
This policy and procedure is in line with the March 2015 ACAS Code of Practice on Disciplinary & Grievance procedures to ensure that all University staff are treated fairly and with respect and dignity and that the University meets all its legal requirements.
The procedure in this document applies to all employees of the University except those academic staff and officers covered by Statute 25 as outlined in Annex A (where a separate procedure applies which is set out in Statute 25 Part III). It does not apply to self employed people or to individuals contracted by other companies or on secondment to the University who are covered by their own employer’s procedures. It also links with the University's Dignity & Respect policy and procedure.
Normal disciplinary standards and procedures apply to Trade Union representatives, however, no formal disciplinary action will be taken against a member of staff who is an accredited Trade Union representative until the circumstances of the case have been discussed with the local Branch Secretary / Branch President of the accredited Trade Union concerned or with an employed Trade Union official.
Any conduct which adversely affects the University, its employees, workers, students, visitors, agents or other third parties, such as negligence, breaches of work rules or unsafe practices may lead to disciplinary action.
3. What we expect from you
- To comply with the University’s rules, policies and procedures at all times
- To carry out your job to the rules and standards expected of your role
- To behave appropriately and in line with all the University’s rules, policies and procedures with colleagues, students, customers, visitors to the University and the wider University at all times, understanding the impact of your behaviour on others
- To maintain effective and professional work and study relationships with colleagues or fellow staff and students and treat all with dignity and respect
- To clarify expectations, behaviours and rules with your line manager if you are unsure about them
- To co-operate if you are asked to be involved with a disciplinary case
- To co-operate with those dealing with a potential disciplinary case concerning you
- To treat those dealing with a disciplinary case with courtesy and respect at all times
4. What you can expect from the University
- To treat disciplinary matters fairly, consistently and reasonably across the University.
- To act promptly when potential disciplinary matters come to light.
- To deal with minor breaches of discipline informally, using resolution-based methods where possible and appropriate.
- To investigate the facts as may be appropriate before taking action under the formal parts of this procedure.
- To advise you in writing at all stages of the formal procedure of the nature of the complaint and give you the opportunity to state your case, present any evidence, witnesses and mitigating factors before a decision is reached.
- The right to be accompanied by a ‘companion’ (as defined by the ACAS Code of Practice) – a University work colleague or accredited trade union representative – at each stage of the procedure except the informal stage
- For the meeting to be rearranged (on one occasion) if you or your companion cannot attend a disciplinary hearing for a reason that was not reasonably foreseeable at the time the meeting was arranged
- Not to dismiss you for a first breach of disciplinary rules except in the case of gross misconduct
- To have the right of appeal against disciplinary penalties awarded
- To be treated with courtesy and respect at all times throughout your case
- To be given reasonable notice of any disciplinary hearing with hearings taking place at a reasonable time and location. All parties must take all reasonable steps to attend meetings punctually
- To record all cases of disciplinary action taken under these procedures and to supply on request to you copies of any such records held which relate to you
5. What managers have a responsibility to do
- Set an example to all staff through their own conduct and behaviour
- Reinforce clear standards for the conduct of all staff that they manage and provide appropriate feedback to their staff in respect of their conduct
- Manage the conduct of their staff, adhering to the policy and procedures contained in this document and the University’s Dignity & Respect Policy and Procedure at all times.
- Raise and deal with issues in relation to conduct and behaviour promptly and not unreasonably delay meetings, decisions or confirmation of those decisions and use the informal resolution procedure where appropriate.
- Ensure any necessary investigations are carried out, where appropriate, to establish the facts of the case.
- Inform employees of the basis of the problem / allegations identified and give them an opportunity to put their case in response before any decisions are made.
- Seek and take account of professional advice from Human Resources as identified in this policy and procedure (e.g. throughout a case).
6. Identified Human Resources (HR) staff have a responsibility to:
- Advise and guide managers on the application of the policy and the adherence with employment law.
- Ensure consistency, reasonableness and fairness in the application of the policy.
- Ensure the provision of all necessary information and documentation in relation to the process.
- Review the policy on an ongoing basis to ensure that it meets the University’s strategic objectives and all legal and regulatory requirements.
7. The categories of conduct warranting disciplinary action
Offences under the University’s disciplinary procedure fall into two categories:
- gross misconduct
8. What misconduct is
Misconduct is a less serious breach of the University’s rules which would not normally result in dismissal for a first offence. The severity and frequency of the breach will be taken into account when determining the level of warning. The following list, which is neither exhaustive nor exclusive, gives some of the offences the University deems to be misconduct:
- failure to disclose any potential conflicts of interest in personal life or that of a close family member
- failure to report any criminal conviction or police caution
- on site speeding or persistent parking offences
- unauthorised absences from work, which have no underlying chronic medical condition and are not disability related
- minor breach of financial regulations
- persistent minor breaches of University rules
- repeated lateness or persistent time wasting
9. What gross misconduct is
Gross misconduct is a breach of University policies and disciplinary rules which is so serious that it amounts to fundamental breach of trust and confidence between you and the University.
You can be summarily dismissed for a first offence which is considered to constitute gross misconduct. If you are dismissed for gross misconduct, the dismissal is without notice or payment in lieu of notice.
The following are some of the offences the University considers to be gross misconduct. This list is not exhaustive or exclusive:
- any form of assault or physical violence
- theft, deliberate malpractice, deception, cover up of deficiencies or falsification of documents or accounts
- serious breach of financial regulations
- bringing the University into serious disrepute
- deliberate unauthorised disclosures to a third party of any confidential information or intellectual property
- failure to comply with the law in all business activities
- submission of falsified claims for overtime, expenses, advances or allowances or other fraudulent acts
- falsely reporting or recording sick absence
- acts of discrimination, bullying, harassment or victimisation of employees, students or visitors to the campus which compromise that person’s dignity
- downloading of inappropriate material from the internet as set out in the IT Acceptable Use Policy
- serious breach of health and safety procedures
- deliberate plagiarism
- incapacity to work due to being under the influence of alcohol or illegal substances
- using or dealing in illegal substances on University premises
- wilful damage to property belonging to the University, its students, customers, visitors or fellow employees
- serious insubordination
- abusive behaviour
- serious negligence
- serious abuse of research ethics
- continued absence without leave
- covert recording of staff, meetings etc – without express consent, for example
You have the right to be accompanied at an investigatory interview and throughout the formal procedure (see sections 11 and 17) by a ‘companion’ as defined by the ACAS Code of Practice – namely a University work colleague or a trade union representative. A trade union representative who is not an employed official must have been certified by their union as being competent to accompany a worker.
There is no right to be accompanied by a companion at meetings under the informal resolution procedure (see section 11 below) although you may seek advice on a confidential basis from a trade union representative before or after such a meeting. There may be exceptional situations where the manager, Human Resources and the employee all agree for a companion to be present.
11. Informal and resolution-based procedures
11.1 Informal actions:
For minor infringements of discipline, your line manager/supervisor will make every effort to resolve the matter by informal and confidential discussions with you. A written record of the conversation should normally be made, confirming any actions to be taken and the implications if there is a repetition of the behaviour or if the informal process does not bring about an improvement. The HR Services team have a set of documentation (currently called ACT Fair) that can be used for confirming informal action undertaken so that the key information is documented. This will be retained confidentially.
11.2 The Resolution Framework:
The University has a Resolution Framework that can be used, particularly in situations where are minor or lower-level issues or behaviour that impact on others’ dignity and respect. Under the Resolution Framework the University has specially trained staff who can use a range of resolution-focused methods to bring home the impact of this negative behaviour and prevent it from being repeated. The Resolution Framework is attached as Appendix 1.
If this informal process under 11.1 or 11.2 above does not bring about an improvement, or if there is a repetition of the behaviour or the misconduct is considered too serious to be classed as minor, the formal disciplinary procedure will be implemented as set out under section 12 below.
Informal actions under the Resolution Framework (see Appendix 1) may also carried out after a disciplinary investigation or hearing to bring about learning and improve the working relationships between the staff / parties involved.
12. Formal procedure
As soon as reasonably practicable after a suspected breach of disciplinary rules comes to light, your line manager or other appropriate person will instigate an impartial investigation. The purpose of the investigation is to gather facts without unreasonable delay - ideally this should be carried out within 4 weeks. In cases of serious allegations of misconduct/gross misconduct the investigator will be appointed by the Head of Department under guidance from Human Resources.
You will be advised as soon as possible that an investigation is taking place and this will be confirmed to you in writing. You will normally be interviewed as part of the investigation, but there may be exceptional circumstances where the University will proceed directly to a formal disciplinary meeting. You have the right to be accompanied to a formal investigatory meeting by a companion as defined by this procedure (see section 10 above).
Witnesses may be asked to provide a written account of what they have witnessed. Statements should be signed and dated or sent by the witness directly from their University e-mail account. Witnesses may also be asked to attend a witness interview, where notes will normally be taken.
If, as part of an investigation, it is necessary for a member of staff to be interviewed by someone from another organisation (e.g. a regulatory body) that member of staff will have the right to be accompanied by a Trade Union representative or University employee, and a member of the University management will also be present.
The University may inform and / or involve the Police and / or any other relevant statutory or regulatory bodies where required at the appropriate point of the formal Disciplinary Procedure.
If considered appropriate and reasonable you may be suspended from your duties while the investigation is undertaken although you will normally only be suspended if:
a) there is a significant health and safety, business or other risk or the potential for such risk and/or
b) your continued presence in the workplace may hinder an investigation taking place
You may be suspended at the beginning or at any time during the investigation depending on the circumstances. If you are suspended it will be confirmed to you in writing. Suspension is a precautionary measure only, pending the outcome of disciplinary proceedings and is not a punishment in itself. When suspended your contract of employment will continue in full force and effect and you will be paid your normal basic pay rate and receive any usual benefits. You will not be allowed onto University premises while suspended without the prior consent of your line manager or supervisor. When suspended you are required to be available to attend meetings and respond to requests under this procedure. You must continue to report sickness in the normal way as set out in the Sickness Absence Policy and Procedure and request annual or other leave as required under University rules.
12.3. Disciplinary meeting
Having established the facts, if there is reasonable belief that you have committed a disciplinary offence, you will be invited to a disciplinary meeting. The meeting will normally be chaired by your line manager unless personally involved in the incident or its investigation, in which case it should be the next most senior line manager. You have the right to be accompanied by a companion (as defined in section 9). You will be sent a copy of the evidence to be considered at the meeting and will have the opportunity to state your case fully. You should also give copies of any papers or witness statements that you intend to rely on at the meeting at least two working days in advance of the meeting to the person dealing with the meeting.
You will be given at least five working days’ notice to attend the meeting which you (and your companion) must make every effort to attend. The meeting will only be re-arranged if you provide a good reason why you are unable to attend, or your companion cannot make the arranged date.
If the meeting has to be rearranged, at least two working days' notice of the rearranged date will be given. If you or your companion work on a rota or shift, these should be taken into account in rearranging the meeting. You will be expected to attend the re-arranged meeting unless there are exceptional circumstances which mean that you are unable to be there in which case you must advise your manager in advance of the meeting. If you unreasonably fail to attend the rearranged meeting it will take place in your absence.
If the rearranged meeting is more than five working days from the date of the original meeting and your companion cannot make the rearranged date, you must find a replacement.
At a meeting your companion is entitled to address the meeting, ask questions and confer privately with you. Your companion does not, however, have the right to answer questions on your behalf or address the meeting if you do not wish them to or prevent the employer from explaining their case.
A member of Human Resources may be present to provide advice on proceedings as appropriate, in cases of misconduct. In cases of gross misconduct, a member of Human Resources should be present. A note taker will normally be present to take written notes of the meeting, or the meeting will be digitally recorded to enable a verbatim transcript of the formal meeting to be produced and you will receive a copy of the notes of the meeting. The covert recording of such meetings is forbidden and if undertaken will be considered as an act of gross misconduct (as would be any act of covert recording – see section 9 above).
12.4. Adjourning the disciplinary meeting
Prior to making a decision the disciplinary meeting will be adjourned to consider all relevant information. The meeting may also be adjourned if necessary for the purpose of clarifying or gathering additional information. If new information is gathered or clarified you will be advised of the new information and given a reasonable time to consider it prior to the meeting being reconvened.
12.5. Confirmation of outcome
Following an adjournment and once the manager conducting the meeting is satisfied that all relevant information has been gathered and properly considered you will be advised of the decision and what, if any, disciplinary action is to be taken.
The decision and action will be confirmed to you in writing and you will receive a copy of the notes of the disciplinary hearing. If you consider that the notes do not properly reflect the discussion you have the right to propose amendments to the record within five working days. Where these are agreed, the record will be duly amended. If your proposed amendments are not agreed, your comments will be attached to the record. You will also be advised of your right to appeal against the decision.
13. Formal warnings
Depending on the severity and circumstances of the case, the University may apply at its discretion, either a first written warning or a final written warning for misconduct offences. The University will take into account any active warnings that may apply to you at the time of the misconduct. The warning issued to you will state what the problem is, and if appropriate what is required to correct the problem and the time scale for achieving this. It will also confirm that further disciplinary action will follow if the problem is not satisfactorily rectified or there is further misconduct.
In cases where it is concluded that gross misconduct has taken place, the University may summarily dismiss you without notice or payment in lieu of notice.
In cases of repeated misconduct, the University may dismiss you with notice or payment in lieu of notice (unless it is concluded that this constitutes gross misconduct in which case you may be summarily dismissed – see 13.1).
The decision to dismiss will be taken at the level of Head of Department or a nominated deputy, or a more senior officer. The University will confirm the decision to dismiss you in writing, after the dismissal, setting out the nature of the misconduct that led to the dismissal and the right to appeal from the decision.
15. Alternative sanctions to dismissal
Gross misconduct cases may not always result in dismissal. Depending on the circumstances of the case and any mitigating factors, the University may issue the following disciplinary penalties:
- monetary payments by way of restitution for culpable loss or damage caused by you, and/or
- final written warning
- other appropriate actions to prevent the repetition of the misconduct
You have the right to appeal in accordance with clause 17, a decision to impose any of the above sanctions.
16. What an active warning is and how long it remains active
Being under an active warning means that if you commit a further misconduct or gross misconduct offence, the University will take the current warning into account when deciding what action to take. Once the warning has expired it will not be taken into account for disciplinary purposes, but after a period of 12 months of acceptable behaviour and working, the warning will cease to be effective.
The active warning periods are:
- first written warning 12 months
- final written warning 12 months
Following the completion of a disciplinary investigation, hearing or related issue all documents and letters relating to it will be stored confidentially within the Human Resources Department in line with all Data Protection Act requirements. After a period of 12 months of acceptable behaviour and working, the warning will cease to be effective.
You have a right of appeal against any formal action under the formal Disciplinary Procedure, save for a decision following an appeal hearing.
- The right of appeal must be exercised within 10 working days of receipt of the outcome letter confirming the outcome of the disciplinary meeting.
- The appeal, stating the grounds on which it is made, must be in writing addressed to the Director of Human Resources, who must receive it within the 10 working days from the date of the receipt of the outcome letter.
- An appeal against a first and final written warning will normally be heard by the Head of Department (or his/her nominee who should be senior to the manager who made the decision being appealed, and who must have had no previous involvement in the case). Where there is no appropriate person within the Department, a Head of Department from a different department may hear the appeal.
- If the original disciplinary meeting was held at Head of Department level, the Director of the Service or Dean of Faculty/School should hear the appeal. If there is no appropriate Director of the Service or Dean of Faculty/School, Chief Operating Officer, the University Secretary or a Pro-Vice- Chancellor, should hear the appeal, (provided they have not previously been involved in the case). The person hearing the appeal will be assisted by a Human Resources Business Partner or Director / Deputy Director who has had no previous involvement with the case.
- An appeal against dismissal will be heard by a panel of three members chaired by a Pro-Vice Chancellor or the Chief Operating Officer, advised by the Director of Human Resources or their deputy.
- The University will aim for an appeal to be heard within four weeks of the appeal being lodged, unless otherwise agreed between the parties.
The decision of the appropriate appeal body (communicated in writing to the employee) shall be final within the procedures of the University.
Approval date: September 2010 (minor revisions October 2019 in relation to new Dignity & Respect policy and Dignity & Respect procedure)
Date of last review: Oct 2023 (Resolution Framework incorporated)