How to handle an employee appeal

First published: March 10th 2023
Last updated: March 10th 2023

Managing a disciplinary issue is a difficult scenario for an employer to handle.

Even when you think you have concluded a disciplinary procedure, the employee may not be satisfied with the outcome.

While you may well have followed your disciplinary procedure to the letter of the law, the employee may still want to exercise their right to appeal.

It’s not uncommon for some employees to feel they have been treated harshly which may motivate them to pursue an appeal.

Other employees may wish to raise issues or evidence that only came to light after the disciplinary process concluded.

No matter the circumstances, you will need to be prepared for the possibility of an appeal.

Ensure you make the employee aware of their right to appeal

Once the disciplinary process has concluded, you should issue a written outcome to the employee that includes confirmation of their right to appeal and the timeframe for exercising this right.

Monitor the timeframe for the appeal?

If you have issued a disciplinary sanction to the employee, the onus is on the employee to lodge their appeal within the relevant timeframe set out in the written decision.

If the employee fails to submit their appeal in good time then it is generally acceptable to dismiss their appeal.

The employee may have good grounds for failing to appeal in time and it is advisable to allow an appeal if there are bona fide reasons justifying the employee’s failure to appeal within the time prescribed.

Who should hear the appeal?

The person who hears the appeal should not be subordinate to the person who heard the disciplinary hearing.

The person appointed to hear the appeal should ideally occupy a more senior position in the company than the employee who heard the disciplinary hearing.

It’s vital that the appeal officer was not a witness in the original disciplinary hearing and that they had no prior involvement in the investigation or disciplinary stage.

What is the basis of the appeal?

The person who hears the appeal should consider whether or not the employee is questioning the severity of the sanction or denying the fact that any misconduct actually occurred.

If the employee is appealing the sanction, the appeal may be limited to a discussion of why the employee deems the sanction to be too severe.

In the second set of circumstances, a full rehearing would be necessary to include consideration of witness evidence and any other relevant information.

Is an independent third party the best option for an appeal?

Depending on the size of your organisation, it may not be feasible to appoint a more senior employee who is in a position to objectively hear an appeal of an internal disciplinary process.

In these circumstances, it may be prudent to appoint an independent third party to hear the appeal. The need to appoint an independent third party to hear the appeal can be particularly acute if the evidence is fiercely contested.

The appointed third party will effectively hear the case for the first time. They will communicate directly with the appellant, witnesses and any other relevant third parties and conduct a fresh investigation if certain facts remain contested.

Once the facts are established, an appeal hearing will be arranged following which the appeals officer should provide their final decision in writing.

Expert HR advice for your appeal

If there is no suitable person within your organisation to hear an appeal, contact us now to speak about appointing Graphite HRM as a third party to hear the appeal on your behalf.

Likewise, if you need help with an appeal process or any HR issues affecting your organisation, speak to one of our experts on (01) 866 0350 or request a callback here.

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