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Violence at a disciplinary hearing ?


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Hi all,

 

I'm an experienced shop steward of 8 years and this is a brand new situation for me, i'ld like as many opinions as possible before committing myself fully for what's possibly to come.

 

I've got to represent a member of staff at a disciplinary hearing next week which will almost certainly result in the dismissal of the person being disciplined. I can't go into details for obvious legal reasons, but it's about as serious as it gets.

 

I've been told privately, off the record by another member of staff that it's almost certain that this guy (an ex-heroin addict, spliff head, methadone user, borderline alcoholic and borderline dual personality) will attack the manager that dismisses him if (when) it happens.

 

Obviously, i'll be speaking to my Full Time Officer in the very near future as i'm worried as to what my role becomes should it happen. I'm 6' 2" and 16 stones and can take care of myself. But if he attacks the interviewing manager am I expected to assist that manager or can I just step back and leave it to the managers companion? Am I even allowed to restrain or touch a member of staff regardless of him attacking anyone? Is it the managers responsibility to risk assess before the meeting and plan for a serious disruption? I'm lost on this!

 

If truth be known, I wouldn't cross the road to pee on this particular manager if he was on fire, but I need to put the personal stuff aside and be fully prepared.

 

Many thanks in advance. :)

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Has the manager due to hold the hearing also been warned that he may be attacked should the outcome be dismissal? I believe that if the risk is genuine, then you have an obligation to share the information and the manager may wish under those circumstances to have more than one person accompany him on the disciplinary 'panel'. The employer is not actually required to even hold a hearing or comply fully with disciplinary procedures if he believes that in doing so he would be at significant risk of injury to himself or others, or damage to property. This is a case of balancing risk with procedure, but if the action leading to the disciplinary is clear cut, and the only reasonable sanction for that action is dismissal, then he need not go through the full disciplinary process where there is a genuine threat of violence, abuse or intimidation.

 

With regard to restraint should the hearing go ahead, then anybody is entitled to use reasonable force in order to prevent harm to themself or others. Have people on standby to assist if neccessary.

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Has the manager due to hold the hearing also been warned that he may be attacked should the outcome be dismissal?

No, i've been given the info' privately after he was suspended.

 

I believe that if the risk is genuine, then you have an obligation to share the information and the manager may wish under those circumstances to have more than one person accompany him on the disciplinary 'panel'.

Part of the allegations is refusing to comply with a reasonable instruction in as much as being requested to leave the premises further to being suspended and insubordination upon actually being instructed. I had to advise him strongly to shut up and leave, with which he left.

 

Given that I believe the manager has enough to make a reasoned decision as to the possibilities during the meeting, but i'm happy to be advised.

The employer is not actually required to even hold a hearing or comply fully with disciplinary procedures if he believes that in doing so he would be at significant risk of injury to himself or others, or damage to property. This is a case of balancing risk with procedure, but if the action leading to the disciplinary is clear cut, and the only reasonable sanction for that action is dismissal, then he need not go through the full disciplinary process where there is a genuine threat of violence, abuse or intimidation.

 

Our employer is procedurally bound to go through the full disciplinary procedure regardless of any "situation".

 

With regard to restraint should the hearing go ahead, then anybody is entitled to use reasonable force in order to prevent harm to themself or others. Have people on standby to assist if neccessary.

 

If I get injured should an attack take place, and I step in...??

 

Questions questions...!

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If you have reason to believe the manager might be attacked you really do need to warn him. How would you feel if it was you and noone warned you? I doesn't matter how you feel about the manager, the fact is he could be seriously hurt and I don't think you would want the fact that you had been forewarned on your concience.

 

As for what happens when fisticuffs break out, that's a tricky one. If the manager's been warned then (if he's sensible) he'll tke his own precautions. If not, then I guess you'll have to judge the situation for yourself. No matter what, I definitely wouldn't keep the warning to myself.

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I'd actually fully consider whether to warn the manager about this threat for several reasons-

 

Is the source who informed you of this threat reliable?

 

Although one is able to conclude a disciplinary hearing may result in dismissal, due to a serious transgression, it is not always the case this will happen no matter how clear cut this may appear.

 

Do you think if you reveal this alleged threat prior to the hearing to the manager then that piece of information could be the 'last nail in the coffin' for the employee? And that it could be you who would be blamed for revealing what may not be true but proved decisive?

 

Was the threat made in jest?

 

Also, if the room did erupt, why not just leave the room and then later claim you went for some help/use the phone for help etc?

 

This way you are not getting physically involved in a situation which may result in a criminal investigation where the employee could claim allsorts even against you, especially if the manager reveals you prior warned him of an attack.

 

Plus you don't have to help the manager you don't like where he may get a sound beating.:)

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Has the manager due to hold the hearing also been warned that he may be attacked should the outcome be dismissal?

No, i've been given the info' privately after he was suspended.

And I believe that you have a duty, under the Health & Safety At Work Act if not on moral grounds to pass on the information to allow the possible 'victim' to make up his own mind as to how he wishes to proceed. You have a duty to minimise the risk of injury from any source to yourself and those you work with.

I believe that if the risk is genuine, then you have an obligation to share the information and the manager may wish under those circumstances to have more than one person accompany him on the disciplinary 'panel'.

Part of the allegations is refusing to comply with a reasonable instruction in as much as being requested to leave the premises further to being suspended and insubordination upon actually being instructed. I had to advise him strongly to shut up and leave, with which he left.

 

Given that I believe the manager has enough to make a reasoned decision as to the possibilities during the meeting, but i'm happy to be advised.

Hopefully if the colleague took your advice on the last occasion you will be advising him as to the possible (indeed likely) outcome of the hearing and seeking his assurance that he will take whatever is coming without malice towards the person delivering the verdict. You are, after all there to advise and witness that proceedings are conducted fairly, not to act as an advocate neccessarily, particularly where you appear to accept that a dismissal is an appropriate outcome.

The employer is not actually required to even hold a hearing or comply fully with disciplinary procedures if he believes that in doing so he would be at significant risk of injury to himself or others, or damage to property. This is a case of balancing risk with procedure, but if the action leading to the disciplinary is clear cut, and the only reasonable sanction for that action is dismissal, then he need not go through the full disciplinary process where there is a genuine threat of violence, abuse or intimidation.

 

Our employer is procedurally bound to go through the full disciplinary procedure regardless of any "situation".

 

Your employer is not bound by any procedure in order to effect dismissal where there are reasonable grounds to suspect violence, providing that the disciplinary action is reasonable in the circumstances and appropriate to company policy. This is ACAS guidance, not mere supposition.

 

With regard to restraint should the hearing go ahead, then anybody is entitled to use reasonable force in order to prevent harm to themself or others. Have people on standby to assist if neccessary.

 

If I get injured should an attack take place, and I step in...??

Your call, I'm afraid. If you suspect that this may be a possibility then I see even more reason to give full disclosure of your suspicions to all concerned. Failing that, take all reasonable precautions to minimise the opportunity for injury, and be guided by your Union superiors. The area set aside for the hearing should be constructed in such a manner as to keep barriers between yourselves and the colleague, and you must make sure that sufficient bodies are available to be summoned to assist if required. If the colleague is known to be violent and has indicated that he will not take a dismissal quietly, then it is not unknown to have a Police officer close by in the event that he should be needed.

 

I appreciate that this is a very difficult situation, and as a Union Officer you must be seen to be impartial, but if there is the slightest risk of violence, you simply cannot keep this to yourself. Shop Steward or not, you have an absolute responsibility to keep yourself and others safe. Without wishing to make a mountain out of a molehill, what would happen if the colleague started waving a knife around and injured somebody and you had forewarning that something like this might happen but said nothing?

Any advice given is done so on the assumption that recipients will also take professional advice where appropriate.

 

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Sorry Al - I was typing without noticing that you had posted.

 

Naturally your points regarding the credibility of the threat are also relevant.

Any advice given is done so on the assumption that recipients will also take professional advice where appropriate.

 

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I have to agree with sidewinder. As a union rep you should be seen to against any form of violence in the workplace and support both the workers and the company if you suspect any. First of, you need to speak to your member, pointing out to him how he should conduct himself in the hearing.

You should have a word in a senior manager’s ear, pointing out that you have heard he might act in this manner, make clear you have spoken to the member and reminded him on how he should conduct himself and tell the manager his response... Point out that you have no way of knowing how reliable the information is but feel it’s your duty to disclose the rumour you heard.

I would take your unions guidance on how to act if he turns violent but in my union our advice to all reps is NOT to get involved but to call the police or security.

 

 

Ask the management how they wish to proceed and point out that you will not be involving yourself in any acts of violence as you would be risking injury and or possible prosecution for assaulting the perpetrator (stranger things have happened).

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Ask the management how they wish to proceed and point out that you will not be involving yourself in any acts of violence as you would be risking injury and or possible prosecution for assaulting the perpetrator (stranger things have happened).

That's a good point. I think you need to make it clear to mangement that it's not your responsibility to act as 'bouncer' for their manager and that although you're going to do your best to keep the situation calm it's their responsibility to see to the safety of everyone - including you.

Robertxc v. Abbey - £3300 Settled in full

Robertxc v. Clydesdale - £750 Settled in full

Nationwide v. Robertxc - £2000 overdraft wiped out, Default removed by order of the sheriff

Robertxc v. Style Card - Default removed by order of the sheriff

Robertxc v. Abbey (1) - Data Protection Act action. £750 compensation

Robertxc v. Abbey (2) - Data Protection Act action. £2000 compensation, default removed

 

The opinions on this post are those of Robertxc and not necessarily the opinions of the group and do not constitute sound legal advice. You are advised to seek professional legal advice.

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An update to this.. Having spoken to my full time official he's told me in terms that weren't uncertain that it's not my place and completely outside of my remit to be providing management with information that is essentially hearsay and could result in serious prejudice as to the outcome should he intend on putting forward a defence of any kind, because it also now transpires that this chap is on extended probation and also has a written warning for serious misconduct.. (where do I get them from!)

 

Anyway... The manager called me in earlier today and asked me what precautions I had planned should Mr X become unstable during the proceeding. With that I told him that I hadn't a clue what he meant and he said, "what are you going to do if he loses it"? I replied that I wasn't going to be doing anything and that it was he that had a statutory duty of care to me in such a situation. This completely threw him and he said did I realise that this guy was going to "go" for someone should he be up the road... With that I said it had now become far too serious for me to handle and that it would be handled by our FTO who would essentially be a visitor on the day. Police and other threats were made and employment solicitors were talked about.

 

So, it's a complete mess now, but i'm well out of it.

 

I'll post the outcome when it happens, thanks for the replies everyone.. :D

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Your superior was spot on.

 

With the best intentions in the world, you would have been central to what is now a mess had you warned this manager, with your own future probably in the balance too.

 

Manager's manage, it's their problem.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Yes, sorry for the late update, i've been working non stop for the last month on a separate and monumental Appeal Hearing..

 

The guy turned the Union Rep' away, refused representation, threw himself at the mercy of the interviewer who promptly raised new allegations against him and then dismissed him. End of story, he was escorted out of the premises.

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