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Ben Jones
Ben Jones, UK Lawyer
Category: Law
Satisfied Customers: 50165
Experience:  Qualified Solicitor
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My father is a Salvation Army officer and has been falsely

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My father is a Salvation Army officer and has been falsely accused of sexual harassment by a member of their church.
He did not always follow safeguarding policy fully and was alone with the accuser on occaision. To the best of my knowledge the accusations have not yet involved the police and it's currently a matter being managed under Salvation Army employment policies currently.
He has been called to a meeting tomorrow with the Divisional Headquarters Head to hear the detail of the accusations and to respond.
Please can you tell me what advice I should give him in this situation?
Hello, my name is ***** ***** it is my pleasure to assist you with your question today. What is the nature of the hearing - is it an investigatory one? Also is he an employee or a volunteer?
Customer: replied 2 years ago.

It hasn't really been made clear to him, which is one of the things I'm unhappy about.

My understanding is that the detail of the accusations will be presented to both him and his wife at the meeting and they will have an opportunity to respond.

Beyond that the next steps in the process haven't been explained to them. I've suggested that they need to read their employees handbook prior to the meeting to be aware of the process as they have not been advised of this explicitly.

I'm also not sure given the circumstances that they should be seen together?

They are both employees.

How long has he worked there for?
Customer: replied 2 years ago.

He has worked for the organisation for about 10-12 years, and was a member of the church all his life prior to that.

I forgot to mention before which might be useful that they have been advised that a personnel representative will be in attendance at the meeting/hearing but they haven't been invited to bring an advocate of their own choosing.

Misconduct 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. If nothing has happened so far in terms of investigation and the employer is jumping straight to a disciplinary then that is likely to make the process unfair. So he should clarify whether this is an investigatory meeting or a disciplinary one. He is not entitled to have a representative with him at this meeting so the fact he has not been given this right may suggest it could be an investigatory hearing.
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. Ideally they should be seen separately and each one should attend an individual disciplinary, although the law does not say that a joint hearing cannot be held, as long as each is given a fair chance the defend themselves.
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.
I hope this has answered your query. Please take a second to leave a positive rating, or if you need me to clarify anything before you go - please get back to me and I will assist further as best as I can. Thank you
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