What is an HR adviser’s role in a disciplinary process?

The EAT makes it clear that the role of an HR adviser in a disciplinary process is narrowly drawn; limited to assisting the investigation/disciplinary officer in relation to questions of law, procedure and process. In particular, an HR adviser should not stray into areas of culpability.

In the context of an investigation, the substance of the report should be the product of the investigating manager’s enquiries. Similarly, by extension, the outcome of a disciplinary decision must reflect the findings and conclusion of the disciplining manager.

This decision does not mean that, as an HR adviser, you cannot or should not have input into an investigation report or disciplinary outcome – on the contrary, that is usually a key element of the HR role. However, you need to be mindful as to the scope of your input. You can, for example:

Explain the requirements of your company’s disciplinary policies and procedures (and the Acas code) to the line manager, in advance of any disciplinary proceedings, and ensure that these are being followed correctly – this includes making sure the line manager has read and understood the relevant policies.

Ensure that the line manager has addressed all necessary matters, and has done so clearly and cogently. An HR manager can suggest changes to the presentation of a report – for example, suggest that findings and/or recommendations be set out more clearly – provided this does not affect the substance of the report.

Provide information as to how similar instances have been dealt with in the past, so as to ensure consistency, and guidance on how to assess the seriousness of a disciplinary offence (eg whether it could be gross misconduct or misconduct).

Highlight any matters that the line manager ought to have taken into account but has not considered, or matters which the line manager has been influenced by but ought not to have taken into account. This might involve suggesting witnesses to whom the manager might want to speak or identifying additional questions which might be asked, or playing “devil’s advocate” to help the line manager come to a robustly reasoned decision. To this extent, an HR adviser can challenge and test a manager’s findings – but must be careful not to exert influence over those findings or suggest that the findings might be wrong or contrary to what the company wants to achieve.

Provide and check relevant factual evidence, such as disciplinary or absence records.

If you feel that your HR adviser has not followed these guidlines, do not hesitate.

Contact People4people and we will make sure that your HR adviser is held to account. The HR adviser is the one person you often count on to be fair. If they don't follow these guidlines then you could be in for a hard time. After reading this artical, don't stay silent, please,


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