Written by: Joanne Parcell
Sooner or later, after several kids playing up, an absent or non-existent spouse making things harder, useless lazy colleagues and a seriously bad hair day, you may find yourself swearing at someone in your office. And you may find yourself on trumped-up charges of verbal abuse, heading rapidly for disciplinary action of some sort. Whilst this is often merited, plenty of unfortunate souls are unfairly marked by these procedures – but if it happens to you and you get sacked, it’s no good panicking: You need an action plan:
Firstly, let’s understand the three main reasons your employer may decide to take disciplinary action against you:
The first could be your behaviour at work, the second, absence from work, and the third, your standard of work.
If you’ve got a decent boss, who cares about your well being and career, then hopefully they will speak to you informally before any disciplinary procedure starts. A brief word in your ear could be all you need to set you back on the straight and narrow. Use an informal meeting as the ideal chance to sort out any misunderstandings – if things are tough at home, or you have a doctor’s note, be sure to let your boss know. Hopefully, they will understand your situation and give you several weeks to improve on any issues raised. If domestic problems are causing you to snap at work, then it’s time to rethink certain elements of your lifestyle: Take more time to relax, try meditation, offload the kids more often on your parents and don’t take on so much responsibility outside the workplace.
Apologise, apologise, apologise
If you apologise profusely for your behaviour, show genuine remorse, and most importantly, never let it happen again, then chances are, the problem will soon be forgotten about, leaving you to get on with your job, albeit slightly more alert and conscientious with regard to your methods of conduct.
And although it may be an informal meeting, keep a note of the conversation, and precisely what was agreed.
However, not all employers sort out their concerns in such a genial way, and the first thing you know about disciplinary action could be a letter arriving on your doormat. This is usually the first step of the formal disciplinary procedure, and it should detail complaints about your work/conduct.
The letter should then lead to a formally-arranged meeting – you have a legal right to have somebody else accompany you – possibly a trade union representative, or colleague. Ideally, your employer should follow the procedures in the ACAS Code of Practice on Disciplinary and Grievance Procedures, although if they do not, and then you go to a tribunal and win, they may be ordered to pay even more compensation.
This is why it’s important to take notes of precisely what happens, and when. You need everything in your arsenal to should your case go to tribunal, including details of precisely what was said, and how it was dealt with. Modern phones have a voice recorder built in – if you want to be meticulous, ask if you can record the meeting, then transcribe the notes later – just imagine if your phone was wiped or stolen.
If you do not agree with your employer’s case against you, you still have the opportunity to appeal. If you don’t, and then later go on to win an employment tribunal, your compensation may be reduced because of your failure to appeal.
If you wish to appeal, do it in writing, and within a reasonable period of time. If your employer is sticking to procedure, a further meeting should be arranged to discuss your appeal. During this meeting, it’s your legal right to have another person present – once again, a trade union rep or colleague.
You’ve been sacked, what should you do?
So, let’s imagine the worst case scenario: You’ve lost your job, and you’ve got three kids, a mortgage, and a sofa you’ve not paid for. From here on in, it’s all about damage limitation, networking, and maintaining your reputation. Firstly, you need references, but what if the relationship between you and your boss deteriorated beyond repair? Then consider using friends and contacts elsewhere in the company to provide the positive spin your CV needs.
And remember, the law is on your side here – well at least EU law is on your side. Check with the HR Department and find out exactly what they will say with regards to the termination of your position – in an ideal world, they will not say anything detrimental to your character, or reveal the reasons you lost your job.
Fancy a career change?
You can also use this as an opportunity to go onwards and upwards…How about a total change of career, retraining, or going self-employed? If you hated your old job, which could have been the reason you misbehaved or performed poorly in the first place, then it’s possibly time to rethink your career path.
Let’s face it, getting sacked is embarrassing, stressful, and tremendously upsetting, and it’s bound to disrupt your life in a negative manner. But, if you follow the correct procedures, and limit the damage, there’s no reason why it can’t lead to a better-paid job in a new company, or even a successful career in a whole new field.