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My employer is accusing me of misconduct. What can I do?

Conduct is one of the potentially fair reasons for dismissal, so accusations of misconduct should not be ignored. You need to ask your employer to set out in writing exactly what the accusations against you are.

Certain types of misconduct are classed as 'gross misconduct'. If, following a proper disciplinary procedure, you are found to be guilty of an act of gross misconduct, your employer will be entitled to dismiss you without any notice or payment in lieu of notice.

Proven accusations of less serious misconduct might result in some type of formal warning. Your employer may well have a disciplinary code which sets out the penalties that can be applied.

If it is your employer's intention to institute a formal disciplinary procedure you need to establish in your own mind whether you might be guilty of the accusation.

If you believe you are not guilty as accused you need to gather together evidence to demonstrate that you have not committed the act of misconduct. If you believe you might be guilty you need to gather as much evidence as possible that will help to mitigate or reduce the implications of being found to be guilty of the act.

Consult your organisation's disciplinary procedure to see what process might take place and to see if it outlines examples of misconduct and whether the one you are accused of is listed. (If your organisation only has a basic disciplinary procedure, consult the Acas Code of Practice.)

If you are a member of a trade union discuss the matter with your union representative at the earliest opportunity. Even if your employer does not recognise a union you have the right to be accompanied by a union official (or work colleague) at a disciplinary hearing.

Even if you are not a member of a trade union, you can still approach a trade union for assistance and request that you be accompanied at a disciplinary hearing (although, understandably, most unions will only help existing members). Alternatively, you may identify a work colleague to accompany and assist you. 

There is a helpful and free leaflet about the right to be accompanied from the TUC entitled You are not alone. It is available from the Know Your Rights helpline 0870 600 4882 (national rate, 8am– 10pm).