This guidance document outlines the legal requirements on employers to follow disciplinary, dismissal and capability procedures in accordance with the 2009 ACAS Code of Practice on Disciplinary and Grievance Procedures. It sets out the steps that teachers must take to protect their employment rights.

What are disciplinary and capability procedures?

Disciplinary and capability procedures are workplace procedures employers must follow whenever they contemplate taking disciplinary action against or dismissing members of staff.

Employers of teachers in all schools, colleges and other settings should follow the 2009 ACAS Code of Practice whenever a teacher raises a grievance. Governing bodies of maintained schools are legally obliged to establish workplace procedures to deal with matters of staff discipline and capability. These procedures must include certain steps as set out in the 2009 ACAS Code. Often the procedures are divided into informal and formal stages.

Your employer must follow either a disciplinary procedure when dealing with issues relating to staff conduct, or a capability procedure when dealing with issues relating to teacher capability. It is important that the two issues are not confused.

Disciplinary procedures should only be used where the conduct of the member of staff is in issue, for example where harassment, bullying or fraud is alleged.

Capability procedures should only be used where the capability competence or performance of the member of staff is in issue. The procedure should not be used in cases of ill health.

Where can I find the procedures?

Your school or college office should keep copies of all workplace procedures. The procedures must be available to all staff, so do not be afraid to ask for a copy.

What are the informal and formal stages?

In minor cases of discipline, conduct or capability, the informal procedures will normally be used. Most matters will be concluded by a senior member of staff arranging an informal meeting to discuss the issue. In conduct cases, an unrecorded informal oral warning may be given or a teacher may be requested to change their behaviour. In capability cases, a teacher may be offered counselling, coaching or training with a timetable for improvement.

In more serious cases, your governing body or head teacher will commence formal proceedings. During formal proceedings, specific timetables will be followed, standard documentation may be used and formal hearings will be arranged.

What are the minimum requirements for the procedures?

Where dismissal or disciplinary action is contemplated, your employer must follow these steps:

Investigation: To establish the facts of the case an investigation should take place. The investigation will normally be conducted by someone other than the head teacher or the teacher’s line manager.

Statement of grounds and invitation to meeting: The employer should write to the teacher setting out the alleged conduct or capability, invite the teacher to a meeting, and inform the teacher of the right to be accompanied by a trade union representative at the meeting.

Meeting: Before taking any action, the employer should hold a meeting to discuss the matter. The employer should inform the teacher in writing of the decision, offer the right to appeal, and inform the teacher of the right to be accompanied by a trade union representative at the appeal.

Appeal: If the teacher does not agree with the decision, he or she should submit a written notice of appeal. The employer should invite the teacher to an appeal meeting. The employer should inform the teacher of the decision in writing after the meeting.

What should I do if a member is notified of a disciplinary or capability hearing?

You should seek advice from your division secretary or from the NUT regional office or NUT Cymru.

Teachers are entitled to be accompanied by their union representatives or work colleagues at disciplinary or capability hearings and interviews. This is a statutory right that teachers can insist on exercising.

You should not seek to accompany the member yourself unless you have been advised to do so by the Union that this is appropriate, and then only during the informal stages.

What if a member refuses to attend a meeting?

Teachers must take all reasonable steps to attend meetings. If they do not comply with a workplace procedure and they subsequently wish to claim unfair dismissal any compensation may be reduced.

If a teacher believes that he or she has been treated unfairly or has been discriminated against during the disciplinary or capability process, he or she is entitled to take out a formal grievance. In this event, your division secretary or the NUT regional office or NUT Cymru should be informed.

What if the meeting is called immediately?

Teachers are entitled to reasonable notice of any formal hearings where disciplinary action or dismissal is anticipated. The teacher should inform the employer that he or she wishes to exercise his or her right to be accompanied. Your division secretary or the NUT regional office or NUT Cymru should be informed.

What if a teacher is suspended?

Suspension should be seen as a neutral act. The NUT recommends that no teacher should be suspended without an initial investigation. A suspension pending a formal disciplinary or capability hearing should not be considered unless it appears to be necessary for the protection of pupils, staff or property; or where the presence of the person at work would be an obstacle to proper investigation.

Any suspension must be on full pay.

What if a member is given a warning?

A warning may be informal or formal, oral or written, initial or final. Your workplace disciplinary or capability procedure should set out the different types of warning and when and how they may be given. The NUT recommends that oral warnings should be deleted from teachers’ records after a maximum of 6 months and written warnings after a maximum of 12 months.

What if a member needs further advice?

Further advice and support is available to NUT members from their NUT regional office or, in Wales, from NUT Cymru.