What should an employer do if an employee fails to attend a disciplinary hearing?

The Acas code of practice on disciplinary and grievance procedures states that both the employer and the employee ”should make every effort to attend the disciplinary meeting”, and that where an employee is persistently unable or unwilling to attend a disciplinary meeting without good cause, the employer should make a decision based on the evidence available. Therefore, the employer should investigate the employee’s reason for non-attendance, and reschedule the meeting at least once. It may be necessary to reschedule on further occasions, depending on the circumstances.

The employer should inform the employee of the importance of attending and should point out that, if the employee fails to attend the rearranged meeting without good cause, it may take a decision in their absence. It should ask the employee to inform them in advance if they will be unable to attend and should attempt to consult the employee as to their availability when rearranging the meeting.

Factors that the employer should consider when deciding what would be a reasonable course of action in relation to an employee who has repeatedly failed to attend a disciplinary meeting include the employer’s rules and past precedent; the employee’s reason for non-attendance; the employee’s disciplinary and work record, seniority and length of service; the severity of the disciplinary issue; and any medical opinion on the employee’s ability to attend the meeting.

If it is reasonable to do so, for example where there is no good cause for the employee’s repeated non-attendance, the employer can hold the meeting in the employee’s absence, taking into account any written representations from the employee, and any other available evidence, before it makes a disciplinary decision. The employer should always give the employee the right to appeal the disciplinary decision whether the decision has been made whether they were in attendance at the disciplinary hearing or not.