HR Expert: How to Handle an Appeal Process
My client recently has dismissed an employee for gross misconduct however, they have taken their opportunity to appeal decision. What obligations does my client have in this situation?

An appeal is a key part of any disciplinary action, including dismissal for gross misconduct, and it is positive that your client has offered an appeal to their employee as failing to do so could contribute to an unfair dismissal claim.

If they haven’t already, then your client should ask the individual to submit their appeal in writing setting out why they believe the dismissal was wrongly decided or imposed too harsh a sanction. Your client should then formally invite the employee to an appeal hearing, giving them the opportunity to personally present new evidence which supports their defence, or contest if they feel that the original disciplinary decision was incorrect or procedurally unfair.

The employee should be told of their right to be accompanied at this stage by a colleague or trade union representative. It is also important that the individual in charge of overseeing the hearing is more senior than the original disciplining officer. This might not always be possible, especially if your client has limited resources, however they should try and make the process as fair as they can, including bringing in an external person to carry out the appeal where appropriate.

Your client should remember to enter the appeal hearing with an open mind, as it is important that they are prepared to listen to what their employee has to say, and take detailed notes where necessary. Instead of making a rash decision during the hearing, your client should take time afterwards to consider any points raised by the employee whilst re-examining any relevant evidence before coming to a decision.

Once they have considered this fully, your client should decide between upholding the original decision, issuing a lesser sanction or overturning the dismissal completely, making sure to inform the employee of this in writing. It is usual that only one level of appeal is available to employees during a disciplinary process and if this is the case, the employee should be informed that this is the end of the procedure. If there are further levels of appeal, the employee should be notified of any steps to take.

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