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Ben Jones
Ben Jones, UK Lawyer
Category: Law
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I am now facing a disciplinary hearing with my school as an

Customer Question

I am now facing a disciplinary hearing with my school as an anonymous text was sent to the head claiming that I had stated that I would invoice the school for some props (I am a drama teacher) and the school would never know. The text finishes with "I really don't like her."
I did indeed buy some props which actually were replacing lost stock and other items were to be used by a dance teacher for her rehearsals. I did invoice the school and was paid accordingly nearly a month ago and at no point did the finance manager query the invoice. The text arrived two days ago, I was suspended yesterday and have been called to the disciplinary meeting on Tuesday.
Is this form of text malicious and should the school have taken it seriously? I appreciate that I am now facing dismissal and yet am very concerned that this was a vindictive way to do this. Please advise.
Submitted: 3 years ago.
Category: Law
Expert:  Ben Jones replied 3 years ago.
Ben Jones : Hello, my name is ***** ***** it is my pleasure to assist you with your question today. How long have you worked there for?
JACUSTOMER-nag1dhdr- :

20 years unblemished record. 32 years teaching altogether unblemished. The wording of the letter calling me to the meeting says that I am charged with gross misconduct for misappropriating school funds for purchasing resources that are not imminently needed - even though the dance teacher is using the items for a rehearsal for a production next term and that I have breached the trust and confidence of the school.

Ben Jones :

Good morning. Misconduct, such as the allegations here, is a common reason for taking disciplinary action against an employee. It could be due either to a single serious act of misconduct or a series of less serious acts over a period of time.

In order to justify that disciplinary action on grounds of misconduct was fair, the law requires that the employer:

  • Conducts a reasonable investigation;

  • Follows a fair disciplinary procedure; and

  • Shows they had reasonable grounds to believe the employee was guilty.

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. The investigation here would have been prompted by the letter received by the employer. You may feel it was vindictive but if it actually uncovers misconduct on your part then the employer can take it seriously and use it as a basis to start an investigation. The letter itself is unlikely to be sufficient to take a formal decision but it can be used as a basis to commence a more detailed investigation.

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 formally sanction them. When deciding on the appropriate penalty, the employer should consider the nature and seriousness of the offence and the employee's disciplinary record. Unless the offence was one of gross misconduct, ACAS recommends that the employee should be issued with a written warning. In this case your employer did know about your activities and knew that you had invoiced them and even settled the invoice. So as long as you had told them about the props and you did follow procedure then you should have a defence to a degree. Also your long and clean record should be taken into account and only a very serious incidence should result in a dismissal.

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 about any of the above and there is belief or evidence that the employer has not satisfied these requirements, an appeal can be submitted to the employer immediately after the disciplinary outcome. If the disciplinary results in dismissal then a claim for unfair dismissal can be made in the employment tribunal. There are two requirements to claim: the employee must have at least 2 years' continuous service with the employer and the claim must be made within 3 months of the date of dismissal.

I hope this clarifies your position? If you could please quickly let me know that would be great, as it is important for us to keep track of customer satisfaction. Thank you

Ben Jones :

Hello, I see you have accessed and read my answer to your query. Please let me know if this has answered your original question or if you need me to clarify anything else for you in relation to this? I just need to know whether you need further help or if I can close the question? Thank you