Employee Relations

Disciplinary Procedures

We would all like to think that we have employed the right staff, that they will give 100% and never behave in a way that is detrimental to our business. Sadly this is rarely the case. Inevitably, you will from time-to-time have to discipline your staff in order to run your business effectively.

It is important for your staff to be clear on what is expected from them in terms of performance and behaviour. They should understand that if they do not meet these minimum standards of conduct or performance, you may take disciplinary action. They need to know what this means, and how your disciplinary process works. And they should be clear on what to do if they think they have been treated unfairly.

First and foremost, you should clearly explain your disciplinary procedure in writing and make it easily available to all staff. This can either be included in your Contract of Employment, or in your Employee Handbook. It is worth bearing in mind that if included in the Contract of Employment as opposed to the Employee Handbook, you are making this procedure contractual, and failure to adhere to this could open you up to a claim for breach of contract.

Inevitably, you will from time-to-time have to discipline your staff in order to run your business effectively…

Getting your disciplinary process right

Establishing clear and consistent procedures for carrying out disciplinary action or dismissals is essential. Although every business is unique, and every employer will have a different approach to discipline, there are certain rules that are considered best practice when dealing with disciplinary matters. The Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS) have written a Code of Practice relating to disciplinary and grievance procedures, and cross referencing this Code when establishing your own procedures is important.

Employment Tribunals are legally required to take in to account the ACAS Code of Practice when considering relevant cases. And although failure to follow this code does not automatically make you liable to proceedings in itself, failing to reasonably adhere to the provisions of the Code can lead to a 25% uplift in the award issued by the Tribunal, so ignore this at your peril.


Carrying out disciplinary action

For most employers, carrying out disciplinary action is an unpleasant experience. It is one of the key areas you need to get right. And having a clear set of guidelines to follow can help manage difficult situations.

The first thing to consider is what action you feel is fair and appropriate. Many cases of minor misconduct or poor performance are better handled informally. Sometimes a quiet word is all that is required to achieve the desired results.

However, if you feel  that the conduct or performance of your employee is sufficiently poor to justify formal disciplinary proceedings, you need to carry this out in a reasonable and consistent manner. Similar to Grievance Procedures, there is a certain process that should be followed in order to ensure that you protect your business during a formal disciplinary action:

  • Establish the facts
  • Inform the employee of the problem
  • Hold a meeting with the employee to discuss the problem
  • Allow the employee to be accompanied by a colleague or Trade Union representative at the meeting
  • Decide on appropriate action
  • Provide the employee with an opportunity to appeal

Your disciplinary procedure is one of the most important elements in your employment relationship. For expert help speak to SBHR. Our professional HR consultants can make sure you get it right.