DISCIPLINARY PROCEDURES: Learn about UK-wide employment law and formal disciplinary procedures.
Its usage applies to the correct dismissal legislation for employers and employees in the United Kingdom. Why might your employer take disciplinary action against you at work?
Employers can use disciplinary action to encourage improvement or enforce discipline.
Workplace disciplinary procedures provide information to employed workers about their performance or working conduct. Displaying less than the accepted standard or conformity may result in workplace disciplinaries. So what are the correct procedures?
Your employer must gather certain legal information to begin formal disciplinary action against you. The same rules apply to sack an employee because of a working dispute or their absenteeism from work.
Before the disciplinary process begins, your employer may discuss the matter with you – informally. But, they may begin immediate breach of discipline and start their employee sacking procedures.
There is a set method of dismissing employees. Even so, you should have an early opportunity to explain your version of events.
A disciplinary hearing provides you with an opportunity to air your grievances. This is when you can tell your side of the story. You also have entitlement to appeal against any punitive action taken by your employer.
Non-compliance with Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS) procedures is against UK employment laws. As a rule, they would treat a breach Acas procedures as unfair dismissal. The case would almost certainly conclude at an independent Employment Tribunal.
Disciplinary Procedures and Action in the Workplace
Your employer is statutorily required to specify any punishment rules within the organisation. They are usually stated in the written statement of terms and conditions of employment.
You must be aware of them before you confront any disciplinary action in the workplace. All written punitive procedures should be easily accessible to all staff.
Note: The regulations also apply to the company management. Employers and employees face the same punishment and disciplinary procedures in the workplace.
Workplace terms and conditions should state the rules of employment. This includes what kinds of unruly performance or unacceptable behaviour might compel them to initiate workplace disciplinary procedures.
The written statement should also clarify what extra steps you employer may take, if any.
The contractual terms should also provide you with a point of contact. In other words, who should you speak to if you are dissatisfied with any corrective decision or relevant steps that exist in the disciplinary process.
Statutory Minimum Procedures for Dismissal
Statutory minimum disciplinary procedures are the least possible steps incorporated in a written declaration of disciplinary procedures. Current employment law in the United Kingdom requires Statutory Minimum Procedures for dismissal. They should include a:
- Letter stating the reasons for considering their disciplinary procedures in the workplace.
- Meeting time and place to discuss the disciplinary issue.
- Disciplinary decision and an option to appeal against it.
ACAS Code of Practice
All workplace disciplinary procedures should follow the ACAS code of practice. Acas is the UK Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service.
Rules for Unfair Dismissal
Generally you should have at least one year service before making an unfair dismissal claim. Your employer is not required to follow the ACAS code. But you could receive a substantially larger payout if you successfully win an employment tribunal against them.
Employers often add their disciplinary procedures into your contract of employment. This means you can sue them for breach of contract. Employers must follow all workplace disciplinary procedures written into your employment contract.
Note: Different rules for resolving workplace disputes apply in Northern Ireland (NIR).
Suspension from Work
Employers can suspend employees while work disputes are under investigation. But they should inform you of the reasons for their suspension.
As a general rule, suspensions are not common and you should get your full pay during the process. Your employment rights remain unchanged during a suspension from work. You may claim salary as an ‘unlawful deduction from wages’ if you do not receive your normal pay.
Your employer may ask you not to talk about your suspension case to other employees, business suppliers, and customers. Doing so could be grounds for an appeal if it stops you from defending your case. If you do not comply, your employer may take additional disciplinary action against you.
Complaints issued against you may result in an investigation from your employer. In most cases they will ask you for a statement of the facts.
All disciplinary investigations in the workplace should seek to establish the facts. They must be fair, reasonable, and unbiased. You should keep copies of all resulting information arising from an investigation.
Note: Employers can continue with a disciplinary investigation even if you resign from your employment.
Disciplinary Meeting (Hearings)
Your employer may organise a disciplinary meeting. Employers might call it a hearing. Hearings are opportunities to discuss the problem before starting any disciplinary action. Both parties should arrange to meet at a reasonable and accepted time and venue.
Disciplinary hearings allow your employer to:
- Give you an explanation of the complaint made against you.
- Investigate the evidence.
- Hear your version of the events leading up to the complaint.
Any new facts or issues discovered at the hearing may need further investigation by your employer. Another hearing may need arranging for a later date.
It is your right to have someone go with you to a disciplinary hearing. In this case you must inform your employer about this in advance. A hearing companion can be a:
- Work colleague
- Trade Union official or representative
In some circumstances you may bring a family member to accompany you to a hearing. It can also be a worker from the Citizens Advice Bureau. In these cases your employer must agree to it first (unless your contract states that they must do so).
Companions are not permitted to answer questions for you. Equally, they cannot receive your discipline simply because they assisted you in your case. Your hearing companion is usually allowed to:
- Present and sum up your case and make statements that support your case.
- Speak to you and discuss things about the issues during the hearing.
Disciplinary Action at Work
Your employer should write to you shortly after the hearing. The letter states what action they intend to take resulting from their disciplinary action at work. They should also inform you about your right to appeal the decision. Decisions usually result in:
- No action taken whatsoever
- The issue of a written warning
- A final warning issued to you
- Demotion of your role in the workplace
- A dismissal from your position
- An alternative solution to resolve the problem
Verbal and Written Warnings
As a rule most company disciplinary procedures include information on verbal and written warnings. They state how many warnings they will give out before they issue a final warning and fire you.
Your employer can issue any type of warning they think is appropriate. But, most employee sackings require a written warning to terminate a working relationship. Even so, you should get written confirmation of the reasons and longevity of any verbal reprimand.
Employers are not authorized to change your job description as a form of punishment. They cannot fine you for the incident either. Rule exceptions exist if they are already stated in a contract of employment.
You can begin a disciplinary appeal any time you feel that action taken against you has been unfair. It also applies for any involvement in unreasonable procedures or unduly severe punishment.
First you should write to your employer informing them of why you are appealing. Give them an opportunity to solve the problem.
A disciplinary appeal is usually considered as the third step of any statutory grievance procedures. It occurs if you intend to take your case to an Industrial Tribunal claim. You may receive reduced compensation if you do not follow the proper appeal procedures.
You can arrange another meeting with your employer to discuss your appeal. Appeal hearings should not be unduly delayed. As a rule they are dealt with by an independent individual. That person will not have been previously involved with your disciplinary action.
As a rule, you have the same rights about bringing a companion to an appeal hearing. Your employer should write to you soon after carrying out the meeting at the appeal. The letter will inform you of their final decision.
You may have further rights to appeal if you do not accept the appeal decision. Check whether you can make a claim to an Industrial Tribunal. Grounds for making an additional claim include:
- Any unlawful discrimination in the procedures.
- A constructive dismissal if you feel that you were unfairly forced to resign.
- An unfair dismissal.
- A breach of your statutory employment rights. That may include receiving disciplinary procedures in the workplace for joining a trade union. It also protects you for refusing to join a trade union.
What if your employer has clearly broken the written terms of your contract? Claims through civil courts are available within three months. You may extend the process for another 90 days if your appeal is not completed within the usual time frame. Always seek professional advice if you need further help.
Helpful Advice with Disciplinaries
Several organisations can assist you further with more information and advice about disciplinary issues.
Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service
ACAS offers free and confidential advice about employment rights and work related disputes.
Citizens Advice Bureau
You can also get help from your local Citizens Advice Bureau. They will offer you free and impartial advice.
Equality Advisory Support Service Helpline
Equality Advisory Support Service
Pay and Work Rights Helpline
You can request their help and advice if you are a member of a trade union.
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ALSO IN THIS SECTION
What is a Disciplinary Action?
Disciplinary action is often called corrective action. It is an undertaking of communication with an employee to discipline or correct their unacceptable performance or bad behavior at work. It often results when performance appraisals and coaching have been unsuccessful.
What is the Disciplinary Process?
The disciplinary process or procedure is used by your employer to inform you when something is wrong. It has two objectives. Your employer can explain what improvement is required and you can express your views on the situation.
What is a Disciplinary Sanction?
Disciplinary sanctions are punishments imposed to maintain safety and order within the workplace and establishment. A disciplinary sanction is not a penalty fixed according to the contract of employment and different from a formal warning.
What is a Grievance Procedure in the Workplace?
Grievance procedures are a method of resolving an internal dispute. When solving grievances procedures it deals mostly with complaints, concerns, or problems which have been raised to an employer. Note that there is no legally binding process that employers or employees must follow during grievances and disputes in the workplace.
Who are ACAS UK?
The government-funded organisation of the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service is usually abbreviated to ACAS. Their principle aim is to help resolve employment disputes at work. Any time you make a claim to an employment tribunal it is likely that an Acas Conciliation Officer will contact you to offer you advice and support.