Consistency in disciplinary sanctions

You may have noticed that, when you call for advice about an alleged act of misconduct by an employee, your adviser is interested in how you have dealt with the alleged misconduct before. You may not think that this is particularly relevant to the situation in hand – but a glance towards your previous actions is very significant.

Consistency in disciplinary sanctions is viewed as an important factor when looking at whether any one sanction is appropriate and fair. Any discrepancies are likely to be viewed negatively by a tribunal – should that point ever be reached – if you cannot offer a good explanation for the difference in treatment.

For example, if you want to dismiss an employee for committing what you deem to be a gross misconduct offence, but another employee committed the same offence a few months earlier but you did not dismiss on that occasion, then the tribunal will question why dismissal was appropriate for the employee in question but not the other one. If you do not treat the act as gross misconduct all the time, why did you consider it to be gross misconduct worthy of dismissal this time?

There may well be a good reason which you can give to the Tribunal which will provide your defence, but, if you don’t have one, your sanction may well be deemed to be unfair.

Defence at Tribunal is not the only reason why you should foster consistency in your organisation. Your actions set expectations amongst your staff and, if they see you deciding on different outcomes for the same offence on different occasions, it will be more difficult for them to see where they stand on what exactly the rules and the consequences are. If all staff know that certain behaviour will result in a formal warning, they are less likely to push the boundaries and stray into that behaviour themselves. If they know they may get away with it because you have been inconsistent with your sanctions in the past, they may well try their luck.

Questions will be raised about why certain people are being treated more or less leniently and this will create uncertainty, which may be difficult.

A tough but consistent approach to discipline instils trust amongst your staff that you are fair in your decisions and treat all staff the same – no one member of staff is ‘better’ than another. This plays a part in staff retention and you should see fewer resignations, which leads to less money spent on recruitment to replace lost staff.

Employers in the care industry are all too aware of the reputational damage that negative media coverage can cause, and how quickly the media is prepared to report stories from within the industry. It seems more important now than ever that care providers, of all types, are acting fairly and appropriately in accordance with the law.

Call for advice when you are dealing with an allegation of misconduct, no matter how minor, and we can help you keep on track. Call on 0844 892 2772.

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