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Guidance from ACAS says that dismissing an employee should be the last resort and something that happens only after necessary investigations have been carried out., These investigations should be both fair and consistent as part of an established procedure.

As part of this process, there are various types of letters an employer may use to formalise disciplinary procedures.

What a letter should include

As part of a legal disciplinary process, the employee in question should be sent a letter setting out the reasons why you are considering disciplinary action against them, amongst other factors detailed below.

Elements to include in a letter convening a disciplinary hearing:

  • A statement to say that the employee is required to attend a disciplinary meeting
  • The date, time and location of the disciplinary meeting
  • A statement to say that the meeting will be held to discuss disciplinary action against the employee with regard to a specific reason or reasons (and in line with the company’s disciplinary procedure) and set out details of the evidence.
  • A statement to outline the possible consequences of this meeting
  • A statement to say that the employee may bring a work colleague or trade union representative with them to the disciplinary meeting

What happens after the letter has been issued to an employee?

Following a letter containing the information laid out above, a meeting must be held to discuss the disciplinary issue in question.  Following the meeting, a decision about any disciplinary action must be made and communicated to the employee (this is usually also communicated in writing and should include details of improvements required from the employee, within a specific timeframe and how this will be measured).  An employee must also be given a chance to appeal the decision.

What happens if the employee thinks they are being unfairly dismissed?

Dismissal that is in any way linked to a protected characteristic may automatically be unfair dismissal.  Protected characteristics under the Equality Act include:

  • Age
  • Disability
  • Gender reassignment
  • Race
  • Religion or beliefs
  • Sex or sexual orientation

Other characteristics such as pregnancy and maternity are protected elsewhere under the Equality Act.

In most other cases, employees will need to have worked for two years in continuous employee of the company before they can bring a claim of unfair dismissal to an employment tribunal.

Disciplinary procedure stages

Where an employee continuously fails to improve their conduct or performance in relation to a disciplinary issue, a disciplinary procedure that results in usually includes the following stages:

  • Stage 1: Verbal warning
  • Stage 2: First written warning
  • Stage 3: Final written warning
  • Stage 4: Dismissal

However, depending on the seriousness of the matter steps may be missed out and sometimes it can be appropriate to dismiss without warning.

For advice about how to handle each of these stages, speak to a specialist employment law solicitor, who can help to guide you through the process to ensure that it is fair and legal.

Speak to an employment law solicitor

To speak to a solicitor who specialises in employment law you can contact us using the telephone numbers below, or alternatively you can email us at