Disciplinary meetings can be stressful and demanding for both executive employees and employers. Indeed, many employees have never had to attend a disciplinary meeting and many employers have never had to conduct one. In these circumstances, where one or both parties are inexperienced, it is common for either party to make rash, emotionally-fuelled statements and decisions that could have legal implications they won’t be aware of until it’s too late. This is why it’s important for both parties to remain calm, consider what they say carefully and keep their wits about them throughout the meeting.
To help executives prepare for their disciplinary meeting, and minimise the risk of doing or saying something that could have negative legal repercussions, we have prepared a list of 10 rules for them to follow when they are confronted with attending a disciplinary meeting. By following these 10 rules, executives will be making it easier for their lawyer to represent them (should the need arise) and ensuring their employer does not take advantage of them. The 10 rules are listed below:
- Seek clarification from your manager about whether the meeting is disciplinary or operational. Managers have been known to conduct operational meetings that turn into disciplinary meetings (planned or unplanned). In these situations it is your right as an employee to ask for an adjournment, in order to allow you to properly prepare for the disciplinary meeting and possibly arrange for a support person to be present.
- Everything that is said within the meeting needs to be documented in case legal action is taken by either party. Therefore it is vital that you ensure proper minutes of the meeting are taken by a third party. The minutes should be prepared and sent to both parties once the meeting has concluded. You could also ask your support person to take notes to ensure everything is captured and this enables you to focus on the discussion.
- If the employer suggests they would like to have the meeting either audio or video recorded, you should refuse. Employers who control the recording of a meeting have the ability to edit the recording at a later date. Also, even if you refuse, recording devices might still be present so it helps to be mindful and always act appropriately.
- Employers have been known to seek a quick end to the disciplinary meeting by pressuring executives into resignation, a demotion (or pay cut) or a change of duties. It is your right as an employee to take the time to carefully consider any offer and as such you do not have to provide an answer immediately. If you find yourself being pressured you should refuse the offer and seek urgent legal counsel.
- Your employer has the right to ask you a series of questions relating to your performance and/or conduct that has resulted in the need to have a disciplinary meeting. If any relevant questions are asked you should reply to them using properly considered answers. If you refuse to answer these questions this could reflect badly on you if the matter is taken further. However, do not voluntarily offer up additional information that is not related to the questions being asked. If you do this the employer gains the right to ask additional questions related to the information you have presented. The only exception to this rule is if the matter is of a criminal nature. If this is the case you should decline to answer all questions until you have had proper legal advice from a Criminal Lawyer.
- Where possible it is best to avoid open admissions. Instead, you should try and deflect the question by saying you’d like more time to reply with a more considered response.
- It is your right as an employee to be given the time and opportunity to be prepared for every disciplinary meeting. Therefore, prior to the commencement of the meeting, you should request a meeting agenda and an outline of any allegations (the reason/s for the disciplinary meeting). If the manager conducting the meeting fails to provide this information you should document their refusal and, if possible, inform the manager’s superior.
- Do not assume you automatically have rights to access the unfair dismissal provisions of the Federal Fair Work Act 2009. For a variety of reasons you may be locked out of this system with no way of seeking compensation. Every situation is different and before you make any assumptions you should consult an experienced employment lawyer for advice.
- It is common for disciplinary meetings to escalate quickly into a heated, and sometimes abusive, argument. If this occurs you should immediately call a halt to the meeting and demand that it be rescheduled. If the manager doesn’t agree to this and you walk out of the meeting, you should contact the manager’s superior and explain the reason/s why you walked out.
- Once the meeting has concluded it is your right to know the outcome of it. If the manager fails to advise you of the meeting’s outcome you can write a letter (or email) that outlines your request to know the outcome. Where possible you should try and include the manager’s superior in any such request and do so with the advice from an experienced employment lawyer.