WORKPLACE DISCIPLINARIES: This guide explains when, and how, to take employee disciplinary action.
Employers often find disciplining employees a difficult process. But, it is an integral part of leadership, supervision, and staff management.
That is why addressing staff performance issues as they arise is important. Employers should pursue a progressive approach to disciplining their workforce.
As an employer, you should already have some written disciplinary rules and procedures. You can, and should, use these when dealing with poor employee performance and conduct. But, you must also inform your staff members about the company written disciplinaries.
Your company rules must state what acceptable behaviour in the workplace is. It is even more important to clarify what is unacceptable behaviour. The regulations should also state what action you will take if anyone breaks the rules.
Acas Guide to Discipline and Grievances
Workplace disciplinary rules should follow the ‘Acas code of practice on disciplinary and grievance procedures’. It provides more information for employers who are taking disciplinary action against an employee.
Note: Not following the Acas code is not illegal. But, problems can arise if someone wins an employment tribunal against you. Their award could be up to 25% higher if you failed to follow the code.
Writing Disciplinary Reports
Generally, each organisation determines their exact rulings but they usually cover:
- Acceptable and unacceptable behaviour in the workplace.
- Employee absence and timekeeping.
- Workplace health and safety issues.
- Using fixed telephones, mobile phones, and the Internet.
Note: As a rule, you cannot discipline or dismiss an employee for whistleblowing at work.
Workplace Gross Misconduct
It is best to provide some examples of what gets treated as gross misconduct. You should include them in your disciplinary rules and procedures.
Make it clear that any serious misconduct is likely to result in a dismissal without notice. Common examples of serious misconduct include theft, fraud, and acts of physical violence.
Informing Employees about Disciplinary Rules
As a rule, company disciplinary regulations must be in your statement of employment. In some cases you might clarify them elsewhere, such as written in a staff handbook.
The rules should inform employees what happens when someone faces disciplinary action. They should also state clearly what the action and results could be.
Employers must provide the name of someone that staff can appeal to if they are unhappy with a disciplinary decision.
Note: Failing to provide this information is negligent. If an employee wins an employment tribunal claim against you they could get awarded up to 4 weeks’ pay.
Disciplinary Procedures: Employment Contracts
Most employers make their disciplinary procedures as part of an employment contract. But, an employee can make a breach of contract claim against you if you fail to follow those procedures.
Conducting a Disciplinary Investigation and Hearing
The law does not stipulate exactly how employers should investigate disciplinary issues. Neither does it state how you must hold a disciplinary meeting.
But all disciplinary proceedings should be professional and fair. The ‘Acas guide to discipline and grievances at work’ has more details.
Steps of the Disciplinary Process: An Example
Acas has suggested guidance about the typical steps of a disciplinary process. Their guide suggests:
- Provide a letter to your employee informing them of the exact issue. The letter should also invite them to attend a disciplinary hearing.
- Set up a meeting with your employee and discuss the issue with them face to face. They have the legal right to have someone attend the meeting with them.
- Send a follow-up letter to your employee informing them what action you are going to take. Send this without delay and as soon as possible after the meeting.
- In most cases your employee has an opportunity to appeal your disciplinary decision.
Making Disciplinary Decisions
A typical disciplinary decision is one that could resolve the problem. Often, the decision can include:
- Taking no action at all.
- Giving out a written warning or a final warning.
- A demotion or an outright employee dismissal.
- Some sort of mediation with another staff member or co-worker.
Appealing a Disciplinary Decision
Employees have the right to appeal against a disciplinary decision after a hearing. All employers should inform their workers about this when they give them the written notice of their decision. It should tell them a deadline for informing you that they want to appeal.
The employee statement of terms and conditions of employment must legally include the name of the person they can apply to if they want to appeal a disciplinary decision. It must also explain the correct process for doing so.
An employer should hold the appeal hearing without delay if the employee decides to make an appeal.
Note: Follow the correct Acas code of practice on disciplinary and grievance procedures for appeals. Otherwise, winning an employment tribunal against you means their award could be higher.