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Question 3 – The five most common HR questions we’re asked.

Question 3 of our 5 part series is:

I am conducting a disciplinary but the employee is unable to attend what can I do?

Try and avoid seeing the employees’ inability to attend as an admission of guilt in the circumstances.   The employee may have valid reasons for not attending the hearing; examples could include illness, lack of availability of their chosen companion, needing more time to prepare etc.

I have known a number of occasions when an employee has taken sick leave for work-related stress; particularly when facing a disciplinary for gross misconduct. It is here that an employee should tread carefully and consider the use of its sickness absence procedures in these circumstances. It is important for the employer to establish the causes of the work related stress as these could be pertinent to the disciplinary. If the work related stress is caused by invoking the disciplinary procedure itself, well that is unfortunate and the employee needs to be informed that the process will continue. However, the employer could offer to hold the disciplinary off company premises, or allow the employee to put forward a written case if necessary.

Although an employer can hold a disciplinary in the absence of the employee it needs to be careful in making that decision. The employer needs to show they have acted reasonably in the circumstances and that there is a clear audit trail which indicates that the employee has been warned that failure to attend a meeting may result in being held in their absence.


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