Section 8: Disciplinary and grievance procedures

8.1 Grievance and disciplinary procedures: introduction

It is the policy of the University to ensure that fair and effective arrangements exist for dealing with disciplinary issues, and to ensure that uniform standards are developed throughout the University with regard to both work and behaviour.

The following procedures apply to all staff employed in the University’s academic-related scales and grades, other than those on probation, procedures for whom are given in section 8.2. The procedures recognise that it is the employer’s responsibility to avoid the need for disciplinary action wherever possible by providing guidance and constructive criticism, and to take whatever disciplinary action is necessary promptly and consistently.

The formal procedures allow for a member of staff to be accompanied at his or her request by a union representative, or by an accredited elected staff representative, or by a colleague of his or her choice from within the University. It is also the University’s normal custom and practice to permit a member of staff to be accompanied in situations outside the formal procedures, if he or she believes there is a need for this. Requests for such representation should be directed to the Departmental Administrator*.

* Note: in some departments, faculties and other units the role of Departmental Administrator may be carried out by an equivalent person with a different title.

Wherever practicable the formal procedures should be preceded by private and informal counselling. Where, therefore, the work or behaviour of a member of staff is in question the department should arrange for him or her to be interviewed informally with the object of establishing the cause of the problem and advising appropriate remedial action. Should it be the case that this informal counselling does not resolve the problem and it is judged appropriate to invoke the formal procedure, then the provisions of section 8.3 will apply.

The formal procedures are designed to deal with situations where the members of staff concerned know clearly what is expected of them by way of standards of work or behaviour.

They require that periods of time are specified between certain interviews. The period should in no case be less than one month or more than three months.

Normally where an employee has completed a period of one year during which he or she has maintained the necessary improvement then previous warnings, both oral and written, should be reviewed in discussion with the employee with a view to removing the record of any formal warning from his or her file in his or her presence. Records so removed from an individual personal file will be held on a highly confidential and restricted basis by Personnel Services in the University Offices, to be retained for three years, in the event that they may be required for an employment tribunal or similar external proceedings. Records so retained will only be accessed by members of Personnel Services in the event that the records may be material to a claim raised at an employment tribunal or similar external body and the records may only be made available to those directly involved in such proceedings. Records retained for these purposes in Personnel Services will be destroyed automatically after a period of three years.

Certain disciplinary issues may also involve an employee in criminal proceedings. In such cases the University reserves the right to suspend, with or without pay, or dismiss the employee according to the circumstances of the case. Criminal offences outside work will be dealt with in accordance with the ACAS Code of Practice.

8.1.1 Arrangements for dealing with medical capability matters

The University does not regard medical capability as a disciplinary matter. However, where an employee’s sickness absence renders him or her incapable of satisfactorily carrying out his or her duties, with the result that the employing department cannot continue to sustain his or her employment, the formal procedures set out below will be used as a medical capability procedure to warn the employee of his or her position and, where necessary, to terminate employment. In such cases correspondence with employees will, of course, refer to medical capability and not to misconduct or poor performance.

8.2: Probationary employees

- procedures for dealing with work or conduct issues in respect of all academic-related staff on probation

If a problem relating to a probationer's work or conduct is identified at any stage of the probationary period, the probationer should normally first be given private and informal counselling, with a view to establishing the cause of the problem and advising appropriate remedial action.

If this informal counselling does not resolve the problem, or if the problem is sufficiently serious to warrant formal action without the need for prior informal counselling, a formal interview should be arranged between the department and the postholder to consider the situation. The probationer should be advised in advance of the aspects of his or her work or conduct which are causing concern and that he or she may be accompanied at the interview by a union representative, or by a colleague of his or her choice from within the University. At the meeting the departmental representative(s) will set out their concerns and the probationer will have the opportunity to state his or her case. If, on the evidence available, the department believes that a formal warning is appropriate, this should be given in the course of the interview. This warning should be confirmed in writing to the post-holder. The letter should make clear that if the necessary improvement is not achieved within a specified period (which may involve an extension of the probationary period) the appointment will not be confirmed and the probationer dismissed with appropriate notice. This will therefore constitute a final warning.

Following any formal warning, departments should monitor the situation and, within or at the end of the period specified for improvement (as appropriate), should formally review the progress of the probationer. This should culminate in a formal interview at which the department will give its view of the probationer's progress and the probationer, who may be accompanied by a union representative, or by a colleague of his or her own choice from within the University, will have the opportunity to state his or her case, before any decision is taken concerning his or her employment.

In cases of alleged serious misconduct the probationer must not be dismissed instantly: rather the head of department, or a duly authorised nominee acting on his or her behalf, should normally suspend the probationer on the currently appropriate rate of pay pending an investigation and any subsequent hearing. The currently appropriate rate of pay is the basic pay to which the probationer would be entitled under the terms of his or her contract were he or she not suspended (the currently appropriate rate of pay would normally be full pay; but it may for example be, or change during suspension to, half pay or no pay under the provisions of the University's sick pay scheme). All cases involving such suspension should be reported at once to Personnel Services. The subsequent hearing should normally be held within five days and the probationer concerned will be informed of the complaint against him or her. The probationer will have the right to state his or her case and be accompanied at his or her request by a union representative, or by a colleague of his or her choice from within the University.

In cases of alleged serious misconduct, following the hearing described above, Personnel Services should be consulted before disciplinary action (if any) is taken. The head of department, or a duly authorised nominee acting on his or her behalf, will then inform the probationer in writing of the disciplinary action (if any) which will be taken. In cases where serious misconduct has been substantiated dismissal may be summary; i.e. dismissal without notice and without payment in lieu of notice.

Examples of some acts at work for which after the due processes of investigation and hearing the disciplinary action of summary dismissal may result include theft, violence, wantonly endangering the safety of others, harassment (as defined within the University's Policy and Procedure relating to Harassment), wilful damage to university property, and incapability through alcohol or being under the influence of illegal drugs.

If the head of department or an authorised nominee decides to dismiss the probationer, the probationer will have the right of appeal under the provisions of Statute XII, Part H. Any such appeal should be notified in writing to the Registrar at the University Offices in Wellington Square within twenty-eight days of the date on which the document recording the decision appealed from was sent to the appellant.

8.3 Formal disciplinary procedure

Discipline, dismissal, removal from office, removal for incapacity on medical grounds and appeals for academic-related staff

The procedures to be used are laid down respectively in Statute XII, Part D, E and H.

Statue XII, Part D: Discipline, Dismissal, and Removal from Office

Statue XII, Part E: Removal for Incapacity on Medical Grounds

Statue XII, Part H: Appeals

For these purposes the term "academic staff" should be taken as including academic-related staff.

8.4 Individual grievance procedure: introduction

These are laid down in Statute XII, Part F.

For these purposes the term "academic staff" should be taken as including academic-related staff.

8.5 Employee representation

All members of University staff have the right, under the provisions of the 1992 Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act, to join any trade union of their choice for which they satisfy the membership requirements. The 1999 Employment Relations Act confirmed that all trade union members have the right of individual representation by their union if they are required to attend a formal disciplinary or grievance hearing.

Membership of a trade union is not a condition of employment in the University. Participation in activities within working hours is only permitted in accordance with the terms of any facilities agreement made by the University, the relevant national legislation, and with the consent of the head of department.

The attention of members of staff is drawn to the following arrangements that exist for the representation of the academic-related staff.

8.5.1 University and College Union

The University has recognised the University and College Union (UCU) as the appropriate trade union for purposes of consultation and representation in respect of staff employed in the University academic-related grades. A Joint Consultative Committee with the Oxford UCU has been established, consisting of equal numbers of members appointed by the University and by the UCU. The Consultative Committee meets once in each term (and on such other occasions as either side requests) to consider and discuss matters relating to the terms and conditions of employment of academic-related staff. The terms of reference of this committee are set out in section 8.6.

The Administrative Secretary of the University Branch of the UCU has an office at 16 Wellington Square, Oxford OX1 2HY (tel: 01865 (2)88472 or email: ucu@ox.ac.uk). There is normally someone available to take messages between 9.30 a.m. and 2.30 p.m. Monday to Friday.

8.6 Recognition and procedure agreement between the University of Oxford and University and College Union

1. The University recognises the University and College Union (UCU) as the appropriate trade union for purposes of consultation and representation in respect of staff employed by the Chancellor, Masters and Scholars of the University of Oxford in its academic and academic-related scales and grades in the terms, and as regards the matters, specified below and in the appended Schedule. Matters negotiated nationally will not be the subject of local discussion except in so far as questions of local application may arise, over which the University has discretion.

2. There will be established a local joint committee of the University and the UCU which will consist of six persons appointed by the University, one of whom will be chairman of the joint committee, and six persons in the employment of the University appointed by the Oxford UCU, one of whom may be the UCU Joint Secretary. At least two members from each side will constitute a quorum.

3. There will be two joint secretaries, one appointed by the University and one by the Oxford UCU from amongst their members who are employees of the University. The joint secretaries will be responsible for distributing the agenda and related documents at least five working days before each meeting and will agree minutes of the meetings for confirmation by the committee.

4. The committee will meet during the fifth week of each Full Term, and on such other occasions as either joint secretary requests, normally at not less than five working days' notice.

5. It will be the duty of the committee to consider matters referred to it by the joint secretaries under the provisions of this agreement with the object, where appropriate, of making joint recommendations to Council wherever possible. Any such recommendations will normally be made through the General Board or Staff Committee, as appropriate.

In addition, the committee will act as a channel of communication between the Association and the central bodies of the University.

6. The matters which may be included on the committee's agenda by the joint secretaries will be limited to the following:

    (a) the local application of nationally determined salary structures and awards;
    (b) superannuation arrangements;
    (c) changes in the formula for fees and extra duty payments, including payments for additional lectures, examining, invigilating;
    (d) arrangements for sick pay and maternity leave;
    (e) hours of work and the conditions under which leave of absence may be granted, including holiday entitlements and sabbatical leave;
    (f) grievance and disciplinary procedures;
    (g) such other terms and conditions of employment as the committee shall from time to time add (with the approval of the University and the UCU) to the list;
    (j) such other matters, not specifically terms and conditions of employment, as the committee shall from time to time add (with the approval of the University and the UCU) to this list.

7. It is accepted that in the course of discussion either side may wish to refer back to the body or bodies appointing them, but a meeting may only be adjourned for this purpose with the specific agreement of both parties. Equally adjournment in the course of a particular meeting may only take place by mutual agreement.

8. In the event that the committee is unable to make a joint recommendation, it will be open to either side to register a 'failure to concur', in which event the separate conclusions or proposals of the two sides will be reported formally to Council. Alternatively, it will be open to either side, as distinct from registering a 'failure to concur', to request that discussion on the matter stands adjourned. Any such adjournment must, however, be with the specific agreement of both parties. If, after any such adjournment, the committee is still unable to make a joint recommendation, the separate conclusions of the two sides will be reported to Council. It is open to Council to accept or reject any joint recommendation and, in the case of a 'failure to concur', having considered the separate conclusions of the two sides of the committee, to implement a decision, procedure having been exhausted.

9. Matters involving individual members of staff will not normally be considered by the committee. Such matters will be raised initially, informally or formally, within the department or institution concerned.

10. This agreement will be subject to termination only by either party giving twelve months' notice in writing to that effect.