Disciplinary meetings


This fact sheet covers: 

  1. What a disciplinary meeting is 
  1. How having a union support person helps 
  1. What happens before a disciplinary meeting 
  1. What happens during a disciplinary meeting 
  1. What happens after a disciplinary meeting

What is a disciplinary meeting?

A disciplinary meeting is when your employer requests a meeting to discuss allegations about your performance. ‘Performance’ can refer to your work tasks and/or behaviour in the workplace. 

The purpose of the meeting is to discuss and agree on a solution together. These should be clear and reasonable steps. Your employer should not use the meeting for the sake of just putting blame on you.

How does being in a union help for a disciplinary meeting?

All workers have the right to bring a support person to a disciplinary meeting. This individual can be anyone – for example, a family member, friend, or trusted workmate. They just can’t have a conflict of interest. 

If you’re in a union, you also have the option to bring someone from the union with you to the meeting. That person can be: 

  • One of your workplace delegates
  • Your union organiser 
  • Your union Industrial Officer 

As much as a friend or family member might be good for emotional support, they probably won’t be able to do much when it comes to standing up for your rights.  

Having someone from your union means you will have someone well informed standing beside you to ensure your employer is being straightforward, fair and isn’t trying to mislead you in any way.  

If English isn’t your first language, it would be fair to bring along a translator in addition to a support person to the meeting.  

As soon as you receive notice for a disciplinary meeting, contact your union.

Before a disciplinary meeting

Before the meeting happens, your employer must: 

  • Provide you with reasonable notice of the meeting. 

Your employer can, but does not have to: 

  • Provide a letter of allegation. This letter puts in writing the full details of the allegation made against you, including evidence from the employer to support their allegations.  
  • Provide the notice for the meeting in writing. 
  • Tell you that you’re allowed a support person. If they don’t, you can request to bring a support person in writing.

What if you can’t make a disciplinary meeting?

  • If your employer proposes a meeting time that’s less than 24 hours away, you have the right to ask for a different time due to the lack of notice. 
  • If your employer proposes a meeting time that’s more than 24 hours away, you can request the meeting for a different time if it falls outside of your work hours, falls on a Rostered Day Off, or you are on leave. If you are on personal leave, remember to get medical evidence.  
  • If your employer proposes a meeting time that’s more than 24 hours away, but you need more time to find a support person to bring with you, then you can ask for more time.

During a disciplinary meeting

Typically, your manager and/or someone from Human Resources (HR) will be present. They will start by reading out the allegations and provide accompanying evidence. You should wait until they have gone through all the allegations before you give any response.

What are you allowed to do during the disciplinary meeting?

You have the right to: 

  • Respond to the allegations 
  • Have your support person take notes 
  • Call for a break during the meeting at any time when you want to speak with your union support person without management present 
  • Call for a break when you find you’re getting overwhelmed and emotional 

Some other tips to remember are: 

  • Don’t answer questions your employer hasn’t asked 
  • Be short and polite with your answers. Having a union support person with you will help with that.  
  • Never admit to something that has been alleged without seeking advice from your union 
  • Don’t lie. Dishonesty can be used as a reason to terminate your employment.

After a disciplinary meeting

Sometimes you can’t respond substantially to allegations during the one meeting. In this case, your employer might set up a response meeting where you can provide responses with evidence. 

Your employer might simply prefer that responses be put in writing, and you will do this after the disciplinary meeting. This request can be instead of a response meeting or in addition to a response meeting. You will normally be given a deadline for when your written response is required.  

All disciplinary meeting discussions and outcomes should be documented and shared with participants.

What are the possible outcomes of a disciplinary meeting?

  • Your workplace should have a disciplinary process in place so you’re aware of what next steps will take place. These will vary depending on the workplace. 
  • Your employer might issue a verbal or written warning. You can contest the warning – ask your union about the best way to do this.  
  • Your employer might place you on a Performance Improvement Plan (PIP)

What happens if your employer gives you a ‘show cause’ letter?

An employer will give you a ‘show cause’ letter after a disciplinary meeting when they believe the allegations are serious enough for you to lose your job. In response, you must say why you believe you should keep your job.  

When you receive this letter, you should contact your union. They can help you figure out the best way to reply.  

Your employer must give you an opportunity to respond to the letter before they decide to terminate your job.

Keep in touch with your union throughout this process. They can give you advice about the next steps to take.

What is a Performance Improvement Plan?

One possible outcome of a disciplinary meeting is that your employer will set up a Performance Improvement Plan (PIN). The purpose of a PIN is to establish what support and training you need to successfully do your job. The PIN also outlines how your performance will be measured.  

If you don’t agree with the PIN your employer has given you, chat to your union about the types of amendments you could make to your PIN. If you do have any problems with the PIN your employer has given you, it’s important to raise these as soon as possible because you will have to comply with the PIN.

Frequently Asked Questions

You’ve been called into a disciplinary meeting and stood down. What can you do?

Yes, your employer is allowed to stand you down while they investigate allegations about your performance or workplace conduct. But this does not mean you are terminated from your job. 

Keep in mind that if you are stood down while an investigation occurs, you will still need to be available to attend a disciplinary meeting during the stand down period.  

If you think you’ve been unfairly stood down, contact your union straight away. Your union can help make a case if the allegations against you are false, such as in this example from Tasmania where a worker was able to clear up a case of mistaken identity with the help of their union.

What’s the ‘three strikes’ rule?

The ‘three strikes’ principle is actually a myth and not a rule. An employer does not need to give you three warnings before firing you.  

That said, they can’t just sack you on a whim. If you think you have been unfairly dismissed from your job, contact your union. Do this as soon as possible because you only have 21 days after the date of your dismissal to lodge an unfair dismissal claim.

Cover photo credit: Headway on Unsplash

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