Using Correct Disciplinary Procedure in the Workplace

Employees can face disciplinary actions when a serious issue with either the work or the employee needs to be addressed. It is vital for employers to have a disciplinary procedure in place to deal with issues, to make sure all employees get a fair treatment but also to be protected against potential claims from employees.

Employers should first of all define the behaviour and performance that might lead to disciplinary procedure to come into place, as well as what this would entail. All procedures and rules should be put into writing typically in the employee handbook. Here are the essential steps a disciplinary procedure should outline.

Establish the Facts of Each Case

In the first instance of disciplinary procedure being invoked, employers should carry out investigations to establish facts and gathering evidence to use in the disciplinary hearing. Some investigations will include investigatory meetings with the employee. Employers may allow the employee to be accompanied to such meetings, although it is not a statutory right. Investigatory meetings do not result in action themselves, and if a brief period of suspension with pay is necessary, it should be clear that this is not the disciplinary action.

Inform the Employees of the Problem

If the initial investigation in the disciplinary procedure, the employer decides that there is a case to answer, the employee should be notified of this decision in writing. Enough information about the alleged misconduct or poor performance should be included to enable the employee to prepare to answer at a hearing, which is the next step in the disciplinary procedure. The notice should also specify the date and place of the disciplinary hearing and remind the employee that they have a right to be accompanied.

Hold a Meeting with the Employee

It is important to hold the hearing without unreasonable delay while still giving enough time to the employee so that they can prepare.

The employer should explain the issue with the employee and go through the evidence that has been gathered. The employee can answer any allegations made and present their case in this part of the disciplinary procedure. The employee should be given the opportunity to ask questions and call witnesses if necessary. When witnesses need to be called, both employers and employees need to give notice that they intend to do so.

Allow the Employee to be Accompanied

Employees have a statutory right to be accompanied when the disciplinary hearing could result in a formal warning, action, or the confirmation of a warning or disciplinary action (appeal hearing).

Employees can be accompanied by someone who is either:

  • A fellow worker
  • A trade union representative
  • An official employed by a trade union

Employees can alter their choice of companion for the hearings. Requests to be accompanied do not have to be in writing but employees must allow a reasonable delay for the employer to arrange attendance for the chosen companion. If the designated companion is not available at the date and time of the hearing, the employer has to postpone the hearing (no longer than 5 days after the original date).

The companion does not have the right to answer on behalf of the employee or attend the hearing in place of the employee during the disciplinary procedure.

Decide on Appropriate Action

After the meeting, the employer needs to decide whether disciplinary action is required or not and inform the employee in writing. A first disciplinary action is usually a formal warning put in writing, this can be outlined in the disciplinary procedure. A further act of misconduct within a set period would result in a final written warning.

If the misconduct or unsatisfactory performance is serious enough, it may be appropriate to directly move to a final warning. All warnings should set out the nature of the misconduct or poor performance and the timescale for which change or improvement is needed. The employee should also be aware of the consequences of a further act of misconduct or poor performance and how long the warning will stay current.

A decision to dismiss an employee should only be made by a manager or someone who has the authority to do so. Gross misconduct can result in dismissal without a first warning but a fair disciplinary procedure should still be followed.

Provide Employees with Opportunities to Appeal after a Disciplinary Procedure

Employees should be given the opportunity to appeal against the hearing’s decision if they think the decision is unjust or wrong. Employees should let the employer know the reason for the appeal in writing.

The appeal hearing should be held without unreasonable delay, and the results of the appeal should be communicated as soon as possible. Employees have, once again, a right to be accompanied to the hearing. If possible, it is best to have other managers dealing with the appeal to make sure the appeal is dealt with impartially.

If you’re not sure of how to handle disciplinary procedure in your office, or maybe don’t have one in place, then feel free to contact us.

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