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How Should a Disciplinary and Grievance Panel Arrive at Their Conclusions?

on Monday, 21 February 2022.

Our Narrow Quay HR consultants take a look at some of the areas to consider when managing a hearing and when HR support can be helpful.

Procedural Considerations

The first consideration for the panel should be procedure. Has the employee been given all the evidence in good time ahead of the hearing, so the panel members have had enough time to consider their response to it? Has any new evidence been presented by the school, or the employee during the hearing? If evidence has been providing during the hearing, has everyone had the opportunity to consider that new evidence, or should an adjournment be considered? The panel needs to avoid suggestions that the employee was not allowed time to prepare, has been surprised by new evidence or been subject to 'trial by ambush'.

The panel should consider any other procedural points raised by the employee or their representative, and give careful thought to whether they are suggesting that it has affected the fairness of the hearing. An HR consultant will be able to provide guidance on this and can flag to the panel if they think legal advice is necessary at any stage.

Further Investigations

It may be the case that matters raised in the hearing require further investigation before the panel can arrive at a conclusion. Further investigations will be needed before the panel can arrive at a conclusion. It may be sensible to ask the investigating officer to carry out those further investigations or sometimes a panel member can carry out those further investigations. HR support at the hearing can help to identify where further investigations may be needed.

The further investigations that may be needed might be to clarify a point of fact, in which case it may not be necessary to call the employee back to respond further. If, however, there are additional points that emerge from that further investigation that the employee has not had the opportunity to comment on then you should invite the employee back to the resumed hearing so they can respond to them.

Drawing Conclusions

Once the panel is satisfied it has heard and seen all the relevant evidence it can then move to consider its conclusions. This often involves considering conflicting versions of events. When trying to reconcile a conflict a panel should consider whether there is any surrounding evidence that can assist.

They should also consider the question of credibility of the people involved. Is there evidence for instance that indicates that employee A has contradicted themselves between what they said in an investigation interview and what they said in the disciplinary hearing? It may not have been on the same subject matter, but if you have doubts about employee A's credibility then that is important to note that together with the reason why. Those doubts then can help a panel decide which version of events you prefer between employees A and B.

It's important to reflect on all the evidence that the panel has heard. A helpful technique is to draw up a table which sets out each allegation and the key evidence in respect of that allegation. This will help ensure that panel members have weighed all the evidence when arriving at their decision. That document will prove invaluable should the matter ever proceed to an Employment Tribunal.

It's important to test and question the decision maker's thought processes as it can help a panel to understand the basis on which they are making their decision and can also shed light on any biases which may affect the outcome. One example is unconscious bias, which, if not addressed, can lead to a findings which may be may be open to challenge via an unfair dismissal or discrimination claim in a tribunal.

If a panel is clear about the considerations that have led it to a decision, it will be much easier to explain that if the matter progresses to the Employment Tribunal several months, or years later. For that reason, spending the time to reflect on the decision, and having someone testing your methods and conclusions can pay significant dividends for your organisation in the future.

In summary, HR support provided to a panel at a hearing can be useful in providing guidance on fair process, support in ensuring that any additional evidence or new issues are dealt with effectively and can provide a way of testing out the thinking of the panel in reaching their conclusions.

How Can Narrow Quay HR Help?

If your school needs HR support at a panel hearing, Narrow Quay HR can provide a highly experienced HR consultant who will brief the panel members before the hearing and discuss any concerns that they may have. A script or agenda for the hearing will be provided which will help to ensure that the hearing stays on track. Our HR consultants at Narrow Quay HR are very experienced at providing this support whether in person or remotely. Support can be valuable where there may be challenging procedural issues, inexperienced panel members and also where there is a risk that the matter may result in a tribunal claim.

The HR consultant will attend the hearing, either in person or virtually, and will make a note and ensure that the hearing proceeds fairly. After the hearing, the HR consultant can sit in on the panel's deliberation session, providing guidance on fair process, although not taking part in the decision making itself.

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If you would like to discuss any of your particular panel support needs please contact Simon Martin on 07384813976 or Caitlin Anniss on 07909 683 938, or complete the form below.

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