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Ben Jones
Ben Jones, UK Lawyer
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I am currently being investigated at work (I am a teacher)

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I am currently being investigated at work (I am a teacher) relating to three alleged misconduct issues.
1. It is alleged I said to a colleague who was standing in the doorway of my classroom "don't just stand there and stare at him, it just makes matters worse." (relates to a crying child)
2. A parental complaint that she doesn't feel comfortable around me, that I didn't show proper care to her child who developed conjunctivitus during the school day and that I have used words such a 'grumpy' and 'stubborn' to describe the child.
3. That during a training day led by an external trainer I was negative and obstructive towards group through my body language.
In a roundabout way I have already been told it's going to a formal hearing before the investigation is even complete. I suspect malice because the investigation seems a ridiculously heavy handed approach towards dealing with these issues and unfair in relation to how other colleagues have been treated in similar situations. I have never been in any trouble at work or had informal conversations etc about my conduct.
I have been off with stress partly caused by the investigation - back at work now but struggling. Thank goodness for school holidays. I have been unwell with stress though for months and although my line manager knew did nothing about it.
Any advice welcome.
Thank you
Ben Jones : Hello, my name is ***** ***** it is my pleasure to assist you with your question today. How long have you worked there for?

I have worked there for three years in April

Ben Jones :

Hello, sorry I was offline by the time you had replied. Misconduct, such as the allegations against you, 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.

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 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.

So at this stage it is a matter of cooperating with the investigation and seeing where the employer takes this next. If it goes to a formal heating you will have the chance to defend yourself and can also appeal any formal outcome.

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

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