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UCL Disciplinary Policy and Procedure

1. Scope

1.1 This procedure applies to all staff except those who are within their probationary period1, who are covered by UCL's Probation and Induction Policy.

1.2 Academic staff are also covered by the provisions laid out in Statute 18.

1.3 Issues of underperformance should be addressed in line with UCL's Capability Policy on managing under-performance.

1.4 Suspected fraud or financial irregularity may need to be investigated outside this policy and procedure in compliance with UCL's Fraud Policy.

1.5 Breaches of UCLs’ Anti-corruption and Bribery policy are covered by this policy.

1.6 Matters relating to research misconduct should be raised under UCL's Procedure for Investigating and resolving Allegations of Research Misconduct

2. Definitions

2.1 Any reference to " Head of Department " (HoD) or "Director of Human Resources" also includes anyone deputed by them. References to departments also relate to areas of support services, administrative divisions etc.

2.2 In this procedure "employees" are people who work for UCL under a contract of employment.

2.3 In this procedure "parties" refers to the employee against whom the disciplinary action is being considered, and the manager who initiates the procedure.

3. Objectives

3.1 The purpose of this document is to set down the procedures to be followed when standards of conduct give rise to problems which cannot be resolved by advice and encouragement, training or increased support. UCL is committed to the avoidance of formal disciplinary procedures wherever possible by addressing problems as soon as they arise. This procedure is intended to provide consistency in the treatment of staff and, to ensure matters are dealt with promptly. This follows the ACAS Code of Practice Disciplinary and Grievance Procedures, and good practice as laid down in the ACAS guide on discipline and grievances at work. UCL will undertake disciplinary action with employees only in accordance with the provisions of this procedure.

4. General Principles

5. Informal action

5.1 Informal action should be taken in cases of minor misconduct - issues of underperformance should be addressed in line with UCL's Capability Policy.

5.2 A one-to-one confidential discussion between the line manager and the employee should be held with the intention of gaining sustained improvement in the employee's conduct. This discussion should enable the manager to provide constructive feedback and the employee to express views on the issue. It is important for both parties to understand that informal action is not formal disciplinary action and employees are not entitled to representation at this stage. Where the need for improvement is identified, the manager should explain to the employee what needs to be done and how the conduct will be reviewed in a given period. Brief confidential notes should be kept by the manager on any agreed informal action.

6. Formal Action - Investigation

6.1 Prior to formal disciplinary procedures being invoked, an employee may have received from his/her supervisor some informal indication that his/her conduct or behaviour is unsatisfactory. For more serious incidents of misconduct, it will be appropriate for this to be dealt with under the formal process in the first instance.

6.2 Disciplinary action will not be undertaken until the necessary facts have been established. An Investigating Manager, normally a senior member of the Faculty/Division3 nominated by the Head of Department, will be responsible for the conduct of a disciplinary investigation and will undertake this as soon as possible after the allegation is raised. The Investigating Manager will not normally be; the employee's line manager, the line manager of any person making a complaint that led to the disciplinary action or someone who works very closely with the individual concerned or the person making a complaint. In the first instance, the Human Resources Consultancy Team must be approached for advice and support in investigating a disciplinary matter.

Suspension on full pay

6.3 There may be occasions where suspension is necessary. Where suspension is invoked, it will be on full pay and only for such time as is necessary to permit proper investigation or to arrange a hearing date. Careful consideration must be given before a decision to suspend is taken. It may be deemed necessary to facilitate investigation into a potential disciplinary matter to allow a cooling off period, where relationships have broken down, gross misconduct has occurred or where there are risks to other employees or to UCL's property. The period of suspension will be kept under regular review. The fact and conditions of the suspension will be confirmed in a letter to the employee immediately.

6.4 Suspension is not a disciplinary sanction and is not an assumption of guilt. Normally an employee will be suspended by the Head of Department only after consulting with the Director of Human Resources. The Provost or Director of Human Resources may also suspend a member of staff. Exceptionally, it may be necessary for a Head of Department to send an employee home before being able to consult the Director of Human Resources. In such a case, formal written confirmation of the suspension and the reasons for it will be confirmed by the Head of Department as soon as the Director of Human Resources has been informed of the circumstances.

Conducting an Investigation

6.5 The Investigating Manager will conduct an investigation which is confined to establishing the facts of the case and will include all aspects of the allegation including who made the allegation. There may be exceptional circumstances where the identity of the person making the complaint will not be revealed as part of the investigation report i.e. where someone may be put at risk. The nature and extent of the investigation will depend on the seriousness of the matter. The Investigating Manager will advise the employee who is the subject of the allegation of the detail in writing and invite his/her response. An investigatory meeting with the employee will be appropriate in most cases. The employee must be notified of the meeting so s/he has reasonable time to prepare. The investigation will also include the collation of evidence for a possible hearing, taking statements from, and usually meeting with relevant parties, including where appropriate any witnesses to the alleged incident(s) of misconduct. Any witness to the alleged misconduct may be required to make a signed and dated, written statement as soon as possible after the investigation meeting.

6.6 The Investigating Manager may be accompanied by a colleague from Human Resources at such meeting(s) to provide advice and guidance. The employee concerned may be accompanied at such meeting(s) by a companion (as defined in section 4). Where the employee against whom a disciplinary allegation has been made is a trade union representative, the Director of Human Resources will (after obtaining the employee's agreement), inform a senior member of the relevant UCL Branch Committee in advance of any interview under this procedure4.

6.7 The Investigating Manager will prepare a report based on the findings of his/her investigation, including where evidence was not found. The Head of Department with advice from HR Consultancy, will determine whether or not a disciplinary hearing is required based upon the findings of the investigation. If the Head of Department considers that it is not appropriate to convene a formal disciplinary hearing, but that informal advice or guidance is appropriate, any resulting discussion will be in private and the employee will be informed that no disciplinary action is being taken.

7. The Disciplinary Procedure

7.1 Where there is believed to be a disciplinary case to answer, the Head of Department will consult with the Human Resources Consultancy Team before establishing a disciplinary hearing.

7.2 Where it is identified that a disciplinary hearing is required, the disciplinary procedure should be conducted within the following timescales. In exceptional circumstances, it may be necessary to extend these time limits in discussion with both parties.

Disciplinary Procedure

ProcessTimeframe
Head of Department/Panel Chair notifies employee in writing that s/he is required to attend a disciplinary hearing. Employee provided with details of the disciplinary charge and names of any witnesses who will be called by management No later than 15 working days before the date of the hearing.
Employee contacts HR Consultancy to request witnesses to be called at hearing. Employee organises own witness statements. No later than 12 working days before the date of the hearing.
HR Consultancy invites required witnesses to hearing, providing a copy of this procedure. No later than 10 working days before the date of the hearing.
All written submissions including witness statements to Head of Department/Panel Chair No later than 5 working days before the date of the hearing.
Both parties involved in the hearing to be provided copies of all written submissions received No later than 5 working days before the date of the hearing.
Hearing 
Head of Department/Panel Chair notifies employee orally of outcome of disciplinary hearing. Within one working day of the decision.
Head of Department/Panel Chair notifies employee of outcome of disciplinary hearing in writing and informs employee of right to appeal No later than 5 working days of the hearing

7.3 Where there is a charge of misconduct, the Hearing will consist of one senior manager specified by the Director of Human Resources, normally the Head of Department of the employee. Where the charge could lead to dismissal (see 10.2) the Hearing will consist of a panel specified by the Director of Human Resources consisting of three senior managers normally including the Head of Department. On being advised of the panel membership the employee concerned or his/her companion must immediately make the Director of Human Resources aware if they perceive any conflict of interest arising from the selection of panel membership. The HR Director will consider the matter and amend panel membership if appropriate. The panel will be advised by an HR representative and an HR representative will be responsible for taking notes of such hearings. These notes will form the basis of a formal record of the meeting (see 8.5).

7.4 The Head of Department/Panel Chair will advise the employee, in writing (providing the appropriate notice as specified in 7.2) that s/he is required to attend a disciplinary hearing at a specified place and time. The employee will be provided with the details of the complaint that has been made against him/her with sufficient information about the alleged misconduct and its possible consequences, to enable him/her to prepare to answer the case at a disciplinary hearing. The employee will be advised that s/he has the right to be accompanied at the hearing (as specified in 4) and will be provided with a copy of this policy and procedure. The employee must be given all relevant documentation gathered in relation to the alleged misconduct and names of any witnesses who will be called at the hearing to enable him/her to prepare.

7.5 The employee should inform HR Consultancy in writing of the names of witnesses s/he would wish to call with brief reasons for each request, within the appropriate timescales (as specified in 7.2). HR Consultancy will notify any requested witnesses of the date/venue of the Hearing and provide a copy of this policy and procedure. The employee is responsible for providing written statements by his/her witnesses in advance of the hearing, where statements have not already been provided as part of an investigation. The Chair is entitled to query the purpose of any witness being called and the potential for new, relevant information that the witness can offer. In such circumstances, and following consultation with the relevant parties, the Chair will decide which witnesses will be called at the Hearing. If there are difficulties with the release of staff to attend the hearing as witnesses, HR Consultancy should be informed so they can assist with these arrangements.

7.6 Where it is not practical for witnesses to attend, the Head of Department/Panel Chair may continue to proceed with the hearing if s/he is of the view that verbal evidence from the witnesses will not affect the consideration of the complaint.

7.7 If the employee wishes to present any additional documentation in response to the allegation, it must be presented to the Head of Department/Panel Chair (within the timescales specified in 7.2) in order that it can be distributed to all parties.

7.8 The employee and his/her companion must make every effort to attend the hearing. The employee may offer a reasonable alternative date if his/her chosen companion cannot attend the hearing. If the employee fails to attend for reasons outside of his/her control e.g. sickness, another suitable date may be proposed for the hearing. If on two occasions without good reason, an employee does not attend the disciplinary hearing, the hearing may proceed in his/her absence and a decision will be made on the evidence available. The employee will be informed that this will take place.

8. Disciplinary Hearing

8.1 The Head of Department/Panel Chair will ensure equal treatment of all parties and ensure they have received copies of all relevant papers. The Head of Department/Panel Chair will ensure that all aspects of the case are considered and may seek further clarification of the written submissions from whomsoever they feel appropriate. The hearing may be adjourned if new facts emerge.

8.2 The employee shall attend throughout the hearing and may call witnesses (see section 7.5). The Head of Department/Panel Chair shall be empowered to call witnesses who have been identified to the employee prior to the hearing. Witnesses who are required to attend meetings under this procedure at times other than their normal working hours will be paid plain time, overtime or given time off in lieu.

8.3 The order of the hearing will be as follows:

8.4 A member of the Human Resources Division must be present during the hearing to give professional advice to the Head of Department/Panel and may contribute where necessary.

8.5 A note will be taken of all disciplinary hearings which will be typed as soon as possible after the hearing. The typed notes will always be made available to all parties in advance of an appeal hearing. The Parties should raise any factual inaccuracies of notes with the Head of Department/Panel Chair within five working days of receipt.

9 Decision

9.1 After the hearing, the Disciplinary Panel, having fully considered the circumstances of the case and conducting further checks where necessary i.e. where there are disputes over the facts, will decide whether or not a disciplinary sanction is justified. For a disciplinary sanction to be justified in a situation where the facts of the case have been in dispute and a full investigation has been conducted, there must be a reasonably held belief on the grounds of probability, that the employee committed the act in question.

9.2 The decision will be provided to the employee orally within one working day of the decision being made. Written confirmation with full reasoning for the decision will be provided to the employee no later than five working days after the hearing.

10 Levels of Disciplinary Action

10.1 Disciplinary action can range from an oral warning to dismissal. Levels of disciplinary action are as follows:

  1. A formal oral warning - will normally be issued if:
    • it is considered that the conduct of an employee has fallen below an acceptable standard and the member of staff has committed a minor offence.
       
      Where it is found that such a disciplinary offence has occurred, the outcome will normally consist in the first instance of an oral warning, which will be recorded by the manager concerned. A formal oral warning will normally lapse 6 months after issue.
  1. A written warning - will normally be issued if:
    • there is no improvement in conduct about which the employee has previously been warned or
    • another related instance has occurred during the currency of a previous warning or
    • misconduct is confirmed and the conduct is of such seriousness that an oral warning is not appropriate.
       
      Where it is found that such a disciplinary offence has occurred a written warning will be given to the employee and a copy placed on his/her personal record within the Human Resources Division. A written warning will normally lapse 12 months after issue.
  1. Final written warning - will normally be issued if:
    • A written warning has already been issued and another instance of misconduct has occurred while it is current or
    • there is no improvement in the conduct about which the employee has previously been warned or
    • the conduct is of such seriousness that Level 1 and 2 actions are not appropriate but would not justify a dismissal.
       
      Where it is found that such a disciplinary offence has occurred, a final written warning will be given to the employee and a copy placed on his/her personal record within the Human Resources Division. A final written warning will normally lapse 18 months after issue.
  1. Dismissal - will normally occur if:
    • an allegation of gross misconduct is found to be proven or
    • there is no improvement in the conduct within the specified period which has been the subject of a final written warning or
    • another instance of misconduct has occurred during the currency of a previous warning and a final written warning has already been issued.

     
    Where a member of staff is dismissed; s/he will receive a written statement of the reasons for his/her dismissal, the date on which the employment contract will end, the appropriate period of notice or payment in lieu, payment of any outstanding annual leave and the right of appeal.
     
    Should the Disciplinary Panel consider, however, that in light of all the circumstances, dismissal is not warranted, an alternative to dismissal may be imposed in the form of extending the period of the existing final written warning for a further twelve months, demotion to a lower graded role or loss of seniority.
     

10.2 Some acts termed gross misconduct are so serious in themselves or have such serious consequences that they may call for a dismissal on the first offence. Any dismissal for gross misconduct will take immediate effect once the decision has been made and the employee will be entitled to no notice period regarding the termination of his/her employment. Below is a list of some examples of gross misconduct which may result in dismissal. This list is not exclusive or exhaustive.

10.3 Disciplinary action taken will normally be disregarded for disciplinary purposes after the warning has expired. The decision to dismiss will not be based on an expired warning but there may be occasions where the existence of such a warning will explain the reasoning behind a decision to dismiss e.g. where an employee's conduct is satisfactory throughout the period a warning is valid, but ceases to be satisfactory very soon thereafter.

10.4 Conviction or being charged with a criminal offence outside the workplace and normal working hours may be deemed as misconduct or gross misconduct depending on the nature of the offence, effect of the charge on the employee's suitability to do the job and his/her relationship with UCL, colleagues, students and those external to UCL and the sentence incurred.

See UCL's policy on the recruitment of staff with criminal convictions and the use of criminal record checks.

11 Notification of Outcome

11.1 Where disciplinary action is taken, the employee will be informed of the outcome as soon as possible, including:-

  1. The nature of the misconduct.
  2. The disciplinary sanction awarded including the level of any warning given.
  3. The reasons why the disciplinary action was taken.
  4. The consequences of any further failure to adhere to acceptable standards of conduct. In cases where a final written warning is given it should be made clear that further formal disciplinary action may result in dismissal.
  5. The provision of any support, counselling or corrective action that is required and if not immediate, the time within which improvement will be expected.
  6. The period given for improvement and the improvement expected.
  7. The time period within which the warning will be considered to have lapsed
    • a formal oral warning will normally lapse 6 months after issue.
    • a written warning will normally lapse 12 months after issue.
    • a final written warning will normally lapse 18 months after issue.
  8. The fact that a record of warnings will be kept.
  9. The right of appeal, advising that this should be formally submitted in writing to the Director of Human Resources and the right to representation at any future appeal hearing.

11.2 A formal written warning will normally be accompanied by the withholding of incremental progression (where the employee is eligible for progression) for the period during which the warning is current, unless this is deemed inappropriate by the Head of Department or Disciplinary Panel hearing the case. Incremental progression, where it is due, will resume on the 1st August following the date on which the warning ceases to be current.

12. Appeal Procedure

12.1 Where an employee is notified that a disciplinary sanction has been awarded against him/her, s/he will also be notified of the right of appeal. Where an employee feels the decision taken against him/her is wrong or unjust, s/he may appeal against the decision. The following procedure should be followed for disciplinary appeals. In exceptional circumstances, it may be necessary to extend these time limits in discussion with both parties.

Disciplinary Appeal Procedure

ProcessTimescale
Employee raises appeal in writing to Director of HR No later than 5 working days after receiving the disciplinary hearing outcome in writing
Arrangements confirmed for appeal hearing Arrangements confirmed within 10 working days of receipt of appeal letter or as soon as reasonably practicable
HR Director notifies employee of outcome of appeal hearing in writing No later than 5 working days after the appeal hearing

12.2 An employee wishing to appeal against disciplinary action must submit notice of appeal to the Director of Human Resources in writing within five working days of receipt of the written confirmation of the disciplinary action, clearly stating the grounds for appeal. The disciplinary sanction imposed as a result of the original hearing will remain in force unless and until it is modified as a result of the appeal.

12.3 An Appeal Hearing may be a review of the disciplinary sanction or a re-hearing depending on the grounds of the appeal. The employee must be specific about the grounds of the appeal. These will effectively form the agenda for the hearing and determine the parties to be present at the appeal hearing. Appeals may be raised on any number of grounds, including;

12.4 The employee will be notified as soon as possible of the time, date and place of the appeal hearing. The employee will be advised that s/he may be accompanied by a companion (as specified in 4).

12.5 The Appeal will be heard by a panel of three senior members of staff who have not previously been involved in the case. The panel will be appointed by the Director of Human Resources in consultation with the relevant Dean or the Vice-Provost (Operations). A member of the HR Consultancy Team will provide professional HR advice to the panel and HR will provide a note taker.

12.6 The chair of the appeal panel will explain the purpose of the meeting, how it will be conducted, and the action which may be taken by the panel as a result of the appeal hearing. The employee will be asked to explain the grounds for his/her appeal. The appeal panel shall have particular regard for any new evidence that has been introduced and shall allow the employee or his/her companion to comment on this. The chair of the panel shall summarise the findings once all of the relevant issues have been thoroughly explored.

12.7 The meeting shall be adjourned to allow the panel to consider the decision. The disciplinary hearing decision may be re-considered if it becomes apparent there was no sound basis for this. Where an appeal against disciplinary action is upheld, reference to the disciplinary sanction shall be expunged from the employee's record and the employee so notified. If the appeal is not upheld but the Appeal Panel considered the sanction to be inappropriate it may reduce the sanction or deem that it be operative for a shorter period. Where an appeal against dismissal is upheld, the employee shall be paid in full for the period from the date of dismissal and continuity of service will be maintained.

12.8 The result of the appeal will be notified to the employee orally within one day of the decision and in writing including reasons for the decision within five working days of the hearing.

12.9 The decision of the Appeal Panel is final. Notes of the appeal hearing will be made available on request.

13. Monitoring

13.1 This policy and procedure reflects UK employment law, the ACAS Code of Conduct and the 'ACAS Guide to disciplinary and grievances at work'. This procedure will be amended only following negotiation with UCL's recognised Trade Unions and will be reviewed 12 months following its implementation.

13.2 Recourse to the formal disciplinary procedure will be monitored by the sex, age, ethnic origin and disability status of both the staff member subject to discipline and the manager undertaking the investigation. Such data will be discussed with UCL's recognised trade unions and reported to the Human Resources Policy Committee. This will allow UCL to examine whether certain groups may be disadvantaged by any aspects of its disciplinary policy.

 


Footnotes:

1 For Teaching Fellows this policy will apply for matters of misconduct in year two of their induction and probation

2 A trade union representative, who is not an employed official, must have been certified by the union as being competent to accompany a worker.

3 In some cases, for example under UCL policies on Public Interest Disclosure or when investigating allegations of Financial Irregularity or Misconduct in Research, or suspected abuse of UCL's Computing Regulations it will be appropriate for a member of the Internal Audit Team, Information Systems or a senior Security Manager to assist with the investigation or act as the Investigating Manager.

4 In the event that a disciplinary allegation is made against a senior member of a UCL Branch Committee (i.e. the UCU President, Vice-President, immediate Past President or Branch Secretary; the UNISON Chair, Vice-Chair, Secretary or Assistant Secretary; the Unite Chair, Vice-Chair, Secretary and Assistant Secretary), the Director of Human Resources will inform the relevant Regional Officer after gaining the employee's consent. In the case of all other trade union representatives, the Director of Human Resources will inform the Secretary of the relevant UCL Branch Committee after gaining the employee's consent.