An employee has gone off sick the day before they were due to attend a disciplinary hearing. Do I have to wait until they return to continue the process?

Year Published: 2015

No. This is a common misconception. If it were true then employees could delay disciplinary processes indefinitely by staying off sick for weeks or even months. This has no benefit whatsoever and is just avoiding the inevitable. This is especially the case where an employee is claiming work related stress; the longer they avoid the process the worse they are likely to feel.

It’s important for employers to appreciate the difference between asking an employee to come in to work and asking an employee to attend a meeting at work. Unless an employee has a fit note stating they are too ill to attend a work place meeting, there is nothing wrong with asking them to attend.

Other alternatives should however be offered, for example, it is sensible in some cases to offer to hold the meeting at the employee’s home or at a neutral venue. Employers could also consider allowing the employee to bring someone other than a trade union representative or colleague, for example a family member or friend for support.

At the same time as arranging the hearing, employees should be advised that should they fail to attend without good cause, the hearing may go ahead in their absence and a decision reached without their input.

It really is therefore in an employee’s interests to attend and take part in the process.

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