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Disciplinary procedures: appeals and what to do next

You must have grounds for your appeal and start the process within a certain period of time.

Your right to appeal

Your employer must notify you of your right to appeal the decision arrived at concerning your grievance. An appeal is the third step of the statutory grievance procedure and if you want to take your case to an Industrial Tribunal you must have appealed against the decision before making your claim. If you do not, any compensation you win may be reduced. You can appeal against the decision if you think:

  • the decision was wrong
  • unfair procedures were used
  • the punishment is too harsh
  • new evidence has come to light

Your grounds for appeal should be reasonable. Minor breaches of procedures, or your personal feelings, won't usually change the decision that has been reached. The appeals process is similar to the disciplinary procedure:

  • you write a letter giving reasons for appealing
  • there's a meeting, usually with a more senior manager than was at the first meeting
  • a final decision is made

Make sure you know what the time limit is for appealing, which are often in the written procedures. If you're not given enough time to appeal, do what you can and provide any other necessary information later.

In small firms it may not be possible to find someone with higher authority than the person who took the original disciplinary decision. If this is the case, that person should act as impartially as possible when hearing the appeal and should use the meeting as an opportunity to review the original decision. You have the right to be accompanied to this meeting.

You can't make an Industrial Tribunal claim against a warning, although you could claim constructive dismissal if you decide to leave. A better approach is to suggest mediation or conciliation.

What if you're unhappy with the appeal decision?

If you don't accept the decision, you should first check to see if you have a further right of appeal. In some situations you can make a claim to an Industrial Tribunal. Possible grounds for making a claim include:

  • unlawful discrimination in the procedure
  • breach of statutory rights - for example, being disciplined for joining or refusing to join a trade union
  • constructive dismissal, if you feel that you had to resign because of the action
  • unfair dismissal

You can also make a breach of contract claim through a civil court if your employer has broken the terms of your contract. The usual time limit for making a tribunal claim is three months. If the appeals process isn't completed within the normal time limit, the tribunal may extend it by a further three months. If you are unsure about the time limits, you should seek advice from an expert.

Where can you get help?

The Labour Relations Agency (LRA) offers free, confidential and impartial advice on all employment rights issues for residents of Northern Ireland. You can contact the LRA on 028 9032 1442 from 9.00 am to 5.00 pm Monday to Friday.

Your local Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) can provide free and impartial advice. You can find your local CAB office in the phone book or online.

If you are a member of a trade union, you can get help, advice and support from them.

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