Warnings and disciplinary procedure - how to get it right

Peninsula Team

September 03 2013

Disciplinary procedures will obviously vary in every case but there are some stoic principles that should govern all cases of conduct issues. It must be made clear to the employee exactly what the employer’s concerns are. These must be the honest concerns of the employer and should be held consistently throughout the disciplinary process. Disciplinary action can only be imposed in respect of allegations that were alleged during the disciplinary proceedings. You must clearly establish the facts of the case before deciding whether formal disciplinary action is necessary. The facts must be recorded, e.g. documentary evidence; written statements; minutes of informal investigatory meetings. If the investigations shows that no disciplinary action is necessary, do not proceed any further with the allegations. It is important to use the correct procedure for the problem in question. There are a number of steps that must be carefully followed in order for a fair and correct procedure to have been in place, depending on the nature of the problem. Conduct issues are not the same as capability issues, and each should be dealt with differently. The employee must be made well aware of the possible outcomes of any disciplinary action taken against them. This is in order for the employee to understand the gravity of any allegations made against them and for them to be able to defend such allegations fairly. All evidence that the employer intends to rely on should be provided to the employee ahead of any disciplinary hearing to allow adequate time to prepare a defence. Even where an employer is convinced that the employee is in the wrong, mitigation should not be disregarded, and this can include employee’s length of service and previously unblemished disciplinary record. Where the same person is responsible for conducting the initial investigation, disciplinary hearing and subsequent appeal, the disciplinary process may be deemed unfair or biased towards the employer. Although it may not be possible to conduct the process in any other way for small employers, different people should carry out the process where practicable. It is important that the employer’s decision and the action to be taken are reasonable in the circumstances. It is most likely that an employee should receive a series or warnings before a final written warning and dismissal are appropriate. Minor instances of misconduct must almost certainly follow every stage of the warning escalation process and, generally, only live warnings can be built upon. For any further information please call our Advice Service on 0844 892 2772. By Nicola Mullineux

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