When can employees appeal?
The opportunity to appeal against a disciplinary decision is essential in the employment relationship and of course, natural justice.
Employees should be informed of their right of appeal and appeals should be heard within a reasonable time frame. (Normally seven days.)
The appeal should be heard by a senior figure who has not previously been involved in the disciplinary procedure. No-one should be seen to act as judge, jury and executioner. In small organisations, that may prove difficult and so it may be appropriate to ask an external HR provider to assist.
The employee is entitled to be accompanied at the appeal hearing by a fellow work colleague or trade union representative. If the employee is a minor under 18 years of age, it is advisable to allow them to be accompanied by a parent or family member if they wish.
The employee may appeal on a number of grounds. For example, procedural irregularities, the penalty was too severe, or if new evidence has come to light.
As a matter of interest, if the employer offers reinstatement after a successful internal appeal against dismissal, the employee would then find it extremely difficult to bring an unfair dismissal claim.
Employees do not usually have the right to legal representation in an internal disciplinary procedure unless specifically given that right in the contract of employment/staff handbook. However, in certain instances, an employee may have such a right where the outcome of the internal procedure could affect their right to practice in their profession in the future, for example, in nursing.
The result of the appeal should be made known to the employee within a reasonable time. (Normally seven days.)
That normally completes the appeal process and is the final stage unless, by chance, the contract/staff handbook allows for a second level of appeal.
As with all aspects of employment law, if you are in any doubt, it is always recommended that you seek professional guidance.