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Ben Jones
Ben Jones, UK Lawyer
Category: Employment Law
Satisfied Customers: 47416
Experience:  Qualified Employment Solicitor - Please start your question with 'For Ben Jones'
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I was deceived into thinking that I had a back to work meeting

Resolved Question:

I was deceived into thinking that I had a back to work meeting on Friday, but in addition to this the email I received (with less than 24 hours' notice) stated that allegations had been made against me in terms of me not working my Contractual Hours. I thought the meeting would mention perhaps that I had been late doing a registration as I work in a Secondary School. I attended the meeting to find the Head's PA taking notes which I did not agree to. I was offered no representation. I never signed the minutes as a true record and now that I have read them, there are great inaccuracies. I have been working for the same school for 3 years and within that time I have only had one verbal warning due to saying to the Resources Manager that her email to me regarding not being able to get to work on a very snowy day was 'very rude'. I have had no verbal warnings about not working my Contractual Hours, I have no written warnings. My line Manager knew the hours of work that I was working and never told me that I should be working any further hours. After receiving a letter from the Human Resources Manager the following day, it was mentioned that I was suspended in view of further investigation into the case but that this was not deemed a 'disciplinary action against me'. Two days later I received a pack in the post which I had to sign for stating that I have to attend a disciplinary hearing next Tuesday which could result in dismissal. A bundle of evidence relating to my professionalism has been prefabricated and I have proof that the statements are untruths. I have always show a willingness to work and even volunteered to work the first 2 weeks of the Summer Holidays whilst other teachers took their leave. At interview I was informed that my hours of work incorporated a level of flexibilty 'out of hours', and that I would be available for after school meetings etc...whenever required. Other employees doing the same job as me prior to my being employed were also on 35-37 Contractual Hours per week and they also left the school premises at 3 pm. I foresee gross negligence of the part of my employer that nothing has come to light within the last 3 years until now and if I have been informed of my start time and finish time in writing (which I wasn't), then my situation regarding my employment would not have escalated to this extreme.

Please advise
Submitted: 3 years ago.
Category: Employment Law
Expert:  Ben Jones replied 3 years ago.

Ben Jones :

Hello, my name is XXXXX XXXXX it is my pleasure to assist you with your question today. Is formal disciplinary action being taken against you?

Customer:

I have been asked to attend a disciplinary hearing on Tuesday 10th December at 1.20. The Headteacher and Human Resources Manager will be present. They have notified me that I am allowed one representative. The Human Resources Manager has been bullying me for some time.

Ben Jones :

How long have you worked there for?

Customer:

3 years with no written warnings whatsoever with regard to this. I am being accused of gross misconduct. The meeting on Friday is now described as being an 'investigatory meeting. They are stating that my 'alleged conduct' is unsatisfactory when viewed in the light of the schools policies, rules and standards. I have been supplied with evidence in the form of witness statements which are lies and I have proof that these are all false allegations

Ben Jones :

ok let me get my response ready please

Ben Jones :

It appears that the initial meeting you had was an investigatory one, to enable the employer to gather some evidence in relation to the allegations against you. There are no strict rules in relation to such meetings, such as minimum notice, and you do not have the legal right to be represented at them. The notice could have been longer but then again this is not a meeting for which you need to prepare a defence, it is just asking about the facts and these should be readily known by you. You do not have to agree for the employer to take notes but you have the right to see them and if you disagree with their content then you need to make that clear and provide any changes you believe are applicable.


 


In terms of the overall procedure and the legal requirements, in order to justify that dismissal on grounds of misconduct was fair, the law requires that the employer:



  • Conducts a reasonable investigation;

  • Follows a fair disciplinary procedure;

  • Has reasonable grounds for believing the employee was guilty; and

  • Show that dismissal was a decision that a reasonable employer would have taken in the circumstances.


 


In addition, the employer is expected to follow the ACAS Code of Practice on disciplinary and grievance procedures. Altogether, it means that a disciplinary procedure should be conducted as follows:


 


1. Investigation - a reasonable investigation is needed. What is reasonable depends entirely on the circumstances and especially the nature and seriousness of the allegations. The more serious these are, the more detailed the investigation needs to be.


 


2. Disciplinary hearing - if the investigation provides sufficient evidence of misconduct, the employee may be invited to attend a formal disciplinary hearing. They must be given prior notice of the hearing, including details of the allegations, allowing them time to prepare. They have the legal right to be accompanied at the hearing but only by a trade union representative or a colleague.


 


3. Decision and penalty - following the disciplinary, if the employer holds a genuine belief that the employee was guilty, then they can go ahead and dismiss. When deciding on whether dismissal is appropriate, the employer should consider the nature and seriousness of the offence and the employee's length of service and disciplinary record. They also need to act with a degree of consistency if other employees have previously been disciplined over similar issues. Unless the offence was one of gross misconduct, ACAS recommends that the employee should be issued with a written warning.


 


In summary, an employer is not expected to prove that the alleged misconduct had definitely occurred. Disciplinary action will be fair if the employer can show that it had conducted a reasonable investigation, followed a fair procedure and held a genuine belief that the employee was guilty. Finally, it must show that the penalty was a reasonable action to take in the circumstances and one that a reasonable employer would have taken.


 


If there are any doubts or evidence that the above requirements have not been satisfied, an appeal can be submitted to the employer straight after the disciplinary outcome is communicated. If the appeal is rejected a claim for unfair dismissal can be made in the employment tribunal. The time limit to claim is 3 months from the date of dismissal and the claimant needs to have at least 2 years' continuous service with that employer.

Customer:

I did not sign or agree to the minutes of the meeting on Friday

Ben Jones :

There is no legal requirement to get your agreement to the minutes. You could instead be asked to register any comments and if the comments are not agreed by the employer, a note of the points in dispute can simply be appended to the minutes.

Customer:

Thank you for the information. I did not sign or agree to the minutes of the meeting on Friday and they are not a true record of what was said. If a Line Manager has had appraisals with a member of staff over 3 years and the employee has never been disciplined with regard to hours of work or had any opportunity to be informed that he/she should be working longer hours as it was stated at initial interview stage that the hours of work incorporated extra meetings and extra responsibilities as the discretion of the employer, ie I made myself available to help on a school trip and work an extra 2 weeks at summer school, how can the employer then claim that the employee has not 'committed' to work contractual hours. Can I not claim ignorance with regard to mitigating circumstances of being misinformed.

Customer:

I have never claimed 'overtime' and have attended all meetings after school that I have been asked to attend at short notice.

Ben Jones :

I would not refer to it as ignorance but a mitigating factor would be the fact that the employer knew of the hours you were doing and did not bring any discrepancies to your attention.

Customer:

If the employer has the times that the employee has clocked in and clocked out and that this data has been available to the employer for quite some time, surely the employer should have discussed this matter with the employee before getting the stage of an 'investigatory meeting' and the employee should have had an opportunity to explain that these had always been the hours that had been assigned to him/her when she/he initially took on the job. Surely the factg that all the allegations regarding this have only just happened proves that there are other underlying factors linked with this case. Surely the employee should not been seen as being deceitful with knowing that this information was being logged. I was under no impression that I was doing anything wrong. Now I have also been accused of not doing my job properly, missing registers and being late to lessons and I can prove that 2 individuals have caused this whole saga and falsified statements. It sounds like a massive cover up so that individuals can promote themselves within the organisation, blame me for their own inadequacies and inefficiency in their own jobs. How can my line manager, who is responsible for me and has a 'duty of care', get away with knowing that I was working the hours that I was and she also had access to my Contract of Employment?

Ben Jones :

well it depends on how all this came about - an employer would not generally be required to scrutinise their employees over this and there will be a degree of trust, in the absence of any evidence to the contrary the employer would assume the employee to do the hours they are supposed. However, if only recently some evidence has come about to suggest that this may not be the case then it could prompt them to examine the times in more detail and they cannot really be blamed for the fact this was only discovered now, when no reasons existed before to doubt it. It would well be that this is simply used as an excuse for something else and the employer could have a different agenda for dismissing you but all will becom clear once a decision is made and when you can determine whether the required procedures were followed to justify the dismissal was fair - remember that the law does specify the requirements, as mentioned above

Customer:

So it sounds to me that I do not have a leg to stand on?

Customer:

how long to we have for this conversation on line? is it still £33 or do I have to pay more

Customer:

There is one thing for sure I never agreed to starting work at 8 am and finishing at 4 pm. I would never agreed to those hours of work. I was told at interview...you arrive at school, collect your cover slip, find the work for your lesson, go to your lesson, do a register and according to my job description my main role in school was to supervise lessons in the absence of a teacher. Should I now be asking what they expected me to do between 3 and 4 pm?

Ben Jones :

No it does not mean you do not have a leg to stand on, but it does depend on how the employer deals with this whole issue and whether they can satisfy the requirements I listed above. A lot will depend on what was agreed, what the common expectation was in the school etc - there are still a lot of unanswered questions and mitigating factors

Customer:

many thanks for your help with this matter. I appreciate all your help. I am amazed that this has happened to me as I have always been regarded highly for being willing, flexible and efficient in my job and doing everything to the best of my ability. I have treated everyone with respect and carried out my job in accordance with school policy, followed sickness procedures and always liaised with colleagues. Perhaps I have been too honest and too nice and trusting. Never with any employer that I have worked for have I ever been accused of gross misconduct. Does this go on my records and prevent me from getting another job in teaching, if they decide to dismiss me which I believe that they will as Academies appear to make up their own rules

Customer:

staff have been vanishing from our place of work overnight

Ben Jones :

No, it depends on references - you will not be automatically barred from working in teaching, it just means that if they mention this in a reference a future employer can consider it when deciding whether to employ you but it does not mean you cannot get a job in teaching again

Customer:

many thanks. This present employer has used me to their full advantage in every way possible and they have never ever pursued matters discussed in my appraisals with regard to promoting my career and helping me to do my NQT year. I am outraged at the way that education treats human beings having originally come from a business background myself. Many thanks again for all your advice. I will give you an excellent rating.

Ben Jones :

Remember you can always appeal first and then even if you do not pursue unfair dismissal - you can threaten it and try to reach some kind of settlement with them, like financial compensaiton and a reference

Customer:

Many thanks again

Ben Jones :

You are welcome, best of luck with this

Ben Jones and 2 other Employment Law Specialists are ready to help you

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