Whilst employees’ do not have a statutory right to appeal a disciplinary decision, the Acas code of practice on disciplinary and grievance procedures advises that individuals should have the right to appeal if formal action is taken. Giving employees the right to appeal is an important part of a fair disciplinary procedure and it is advisable that employers make this clear in their Disciplinary Policy.

It is also important that employers follow their appeals procedure as it forms part of an individual’s contract of employment, and failure to comply with it would be considered a breach of contract. Furthermore, employers need to ensure they are applying the appeals process consistently to all employees who are subject to disciplinary action to avoid any potential discrimination claims.

The Acas code of practice advises that appeals should be heard without unreasonable delay. Employees are usually given a timescale to submit their appeal in writing, advising the employer of the grounds for their appeal. The appeal should be handled by someone who is impartial and was not involved with the original disciplinary where possible, and the appeal manager should be someone who is more senior than the person who dealt with the disciplinary hearing.

As with the disciplinary hearing, employees have a statutory right to be accompanied at an appeal hearing. This would usually be by another employee or a trade union representative; however employers should give consideration to what they deem to be a ‘reasonable’ request by an employee.

If for any reason the employee fails to attend the appeal hearing as agreed, then the employer should investigate what the reasons were for this and rearrange where appropriate. It is important that the date of the appeal hearing is mutually agreed and that employers seek advise from their Occupational Health provider as to whether an employee who is absent from work due to illness is fit to attend.

If during the appeal hearing the employee brings something to the attention of the appeal manager that the organisation wasn’t aware of during the original investigation process, then the appeal should be postponed until this additional information can be reviewed.

With regards to the outcome of the appeal, it is important that the appeal manager is aware that a disciplinary sanction cannot be increased as a result of an appeal hearing. In the event that the decision is taken to uphold the appeal then organisations must consider what happens to an employee’s continuity of service if they are dismissed but reinstated on appeal.