How To Discipline Staff The Right Way

Peninsula Team

September 23 2009

If you are a Peninsula client, the Advice Service is available to help you through any disciplinary proceedings that you need to undertake and can advise the best course of action for your business. Just call one of our specialists on 0844 892 2772, where help is on hand 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

It is a common misconception that the purpose of the disciplinary process is to punish staff members. This isn’t the case. The process is actually designed to improve performance.

The key to effective use of the disciplinary process is to make sure that you act reasonably. In order to ensure that you carry out hearings properly it is important to remember that you are supposed to make your mind up afterwards and this means that you need to pay attention to what is said and no decision should have been made before all the evidence has been heard and examined.

Your employee must be given the opportunity to state their case and be heard. At the hearing you must be willing to listen to any points or arguments that the individual puts forward and give them due consideration. This also means that you have to give them enough information to understand what the hearing is about and sufficient time to prepare a defence. If you have decided in advance that the individual is at fault then this ceases to be a fair hearing and becomes a paper exercise.

The most common error by companies is in not following the proper procedure when calling an individual to a disciplinary hearing. To do this you should given them a letter setting out the potential concerns and copies of any evidence or witness statements to which you intend to refer. The employee must be able to understand the reason for, and possible consequences of, the hearing and given enough time to prepare a defence. They must also be informed of their right to be accompanied.

Any letter calling an individual to a hearing must avoid any suggestion of predetermination. If it makes judgemental reference to the issues for the hearing then this will indicate a lack of impartiality. For example, calling an individual to attend a hearing to discuss their:

  • failure to follow a management instruction;
  • unauthorised absence; and
  • failure to work to an acceptable standard.

All of these phrases indicate prejudgement as they show that you have already decided that they have done these things and nothing they can say is going to change that. This can be avoided by the inclusion of one word, such as “alleged†or “apparentâ€. This makes it clear that although an allegation has been raised or there appears to be a problem you are willing to listen to what they have to say.

If you decide to issue a warning as a result of a hearing then this must be at the appropriate level as set out within your procedures and there must be a reasoned justification for giving a warning of that level.

In order to keep your approach on the right lines it is important to remember that one of the decisions open to you is to agree with the individual. In cases where you are considering a sanction such as a warning or dismissal you can conclude that no sanction is warranted.

Remember, the Advice Service is on hand to help guide you through the disciplinary process. Just call 0844 892 2772 and speak to one of our trained advisors.


  • write to the employee telling them what the hearing is about and inform them of their right to be accompanied;
  • suspend immediately if you think it may be gross misconduct;
  • give them all the information that you are intending to consider;
  • keep an open mind; and
  • make sure that your decision is consistent and reasonable.


  • call an employee into a meeting with no warning;
  • consider evidence that you have not given them a chance to comment on;
  • decide in advance that they are guilty;
  • refuse to allow their union to accompany them just because it isn’t recognised; and
  • apply a sanction outside what it reasonable for the circumstances.

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