• Disciplinary
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Peninsula Group, HR and Health & Safety Experts

(Last updated )

You might have employees presenting repeated or serious misconduct issues. In these cases, you may need to take disciplinary action against them.

It's best to have an appropriate disciplinary procedure outlined in handbooks and policies. This can help ensure employee misconduct is managed properly within your company.

If not, employees could raise their grievance against you to an employment tribunal–where your business could suffer from reputational damages and compensation penalties.

In this guide, we'll discuss what a disciplinary is, why you should have procedures in place, and how to conduct the best practice in your business.

What is a disciplinary?

A disciplinary is part of a process where an employer needs to formally acknowledge misconduct. In these cases, the employer may be concerned about an employee’s conduct, such as poor performance or unauthorised absence.

Disciplinary procedures should be outlined in the employee's contract and explain how the employer handles such issues.

The procedure should include a disciplinary hearing meeting in which the employee is given the opportunity to express their side of the story.

What types of behaviour are grounds for disciplinary?

The types of behaviour that qualify for disciplinary action will be mainly determined by the type of business you run.

However, certain incidents usually result in disciplinary due to nature of the misconduct. Here are examples of behaviours that lead to disciplinary action:

It's critical to have a written policy in place to deal with such incidents. These incidents not only harm your business, but also the safety of your employees and customers.

Why do you need a disciplinary procedure?

There are so many reasons why you’d need a disciplinary procedure in place: For example:

  • Informing an employee that their behaviour is inappropriate.
  • Resolving issues to encourage improvement.
  • Imposing sanctions based on the severity of misconduct cases.
  • Ensuring a fair process and avoiding an unfair dismissal claim.

If disciplinary policies and procedures are properly implemented, you can reduce the likelihood of being taken to an employment tribunal. Here, if the court believes your disciplinary process are unfair, you could face monetary penalties.

Steps before the disciplinary procedure

Before taking formal disciplinary action or starting the process, you need to consider the following steps:

  • Informal discussion: A discussion is held with the employee to highlight the matter. 
  • Written warning: A written warning includes details of the disciplinary action.
  • Investigation: An investigation is followed when the misconduct needs to be processed.

Verbal and written warnings required before a final warning or dismissal should be outlined under your disciplinary procedure.

If it's a serious matter (like gross misconduct), you need to establish the facts before taking further action. You can suspend the employee whilst the investigations are carried out. However, suspension should always be used as a last resort.

You need to call the employee to a disciplinary hearing and let them know the purpose of the meeting. Here, you should highlight their wrongdoings and state any potential outcome for their misconduct.

Remember, employees have the right to be accompanied at the hearing. They can attend with a colleague or a trade union representative.

Clarify the case against them and the potential penalties; and provide them with written evidence. This gives them enough time to prepare their response to your claims beforehand.

How to conduct a disciplinary procedure

Disciplinary action can feel formal and time-consuming. But having a proper system protects you from legal claims.

In these situations, emotions are likely to run high. So, a fair disciplinary procedure can help keep things calm and professional. This allows you to deal with matters properly–without ruining employee relations and morale.

Here are steps on how to conduct a disciplinary procedure:

Carry out a comprehensive investigation

Begin the investigation process by gathering all evidence and information needed to verify the facts.

Speak with witnesses, review information, and hold an investigation meeting with the employee in question.

Remember, an employee has the right to bring a representative to the investigation meeting. So, outline this within your disciplinary procedure guidelines. Having a representative could be appropriate for a young worker or a disabled person.

At this point, make sure you record all notes and evidence during the internal process. If you're looking into possible gross misconduct, it may be reasonable to suspend the employee while the investigation is underway.

If you believe there is no case to answer, the case will be closed. Otherwise, you can action a formal disciplinary meeting.

Provide a written statement on the issue

If you decide there is a disciplinary case to answer, you should inform the employee in writing that a disciplinary hearing will be held.

After the hearing and after careful consideration of the evidence, decide whether you should take any formal disciplinary action against them.

Disciplinary sanctions shouldn't be imposed before the hearing. The hearing should be held as soon as possible, while still giving the individual enough time to prepare.

The letter should outline the nature of the allegations in full detail for the employee to reply. Any witness statements and other evidence should be included.

You should also indicate when and where the formal hearing will be held, as well as their right to be accompanied by someone else. Upon reasonable request, this may be a colleague, a trade union representative, or a trade union official.

If the employee's representative is unable to attend the hearing at the scheduled time, reschedule the hearing. You can postpone it to a time chosen by the employee. Just pick a date which is reasonable and no more than five working days after the initial date. 

Set up a disciplinary hearing

The disciplinary hearing should be held as soon as possible after the investigation process. At the hearing, you should go over the evidence with the employee and discuss the alleged concerns or complaints.

In the meeting, give the individual a chance to express their perspective on the situation. They could wish to express certain mitigating circumstances they’ve faced.

Allow them to bring relevant evidence, take a short break, or call their own witnesses to seek advice and evidence. If the employee raises an important new fact, you can adjourn the matter for further investigation.

As an employer, remember employees can allow their representative to talk on their behalf. For example, the companion can share what the employee wishes to present. However, they cannot answer questions on their behalf.

If you are conducting the meeting online, you can record it as part as evidence for the process. Make sure all parties agree to this beforehand.

Make a disciplinary decision

You should inform your employee of your final decision during the disciplinary meeting or shortly afterwards. You can inform them personally but provide is through writing.

Depending on the grounds for the disciplinary action, disciplinary decisions could be:

The outcome could also relate to resolutions specific to the misconduct. For example, the employee could be asked to rectify relations with another co-worker with whom they've had personal problems with.

Dealing with disciplinary appeals

Your employee has a legal right to appeal against any disciplinary action taken against them during a disciplinary meeting.

They may decide to appeal if they believe the outcome is wrong or unfair. However, they should provide their reasons for an appeal in writing.

When you receive this, schedule an appeal hearing as soon as possible. Every appeal should be considered by an impartial chair. The chair should not have been involved in the disciplinary or investigation procedure previously held.

The potential outcomes would be either overturning the earlier decision made at the hearing. Or dismissing the appeal and reconfirming the original decision. In some cases, a re-hearing is the most appropriate choice.

Get expert advice on disciplinary procedures from Peninsula

It's important to have a reliable disciplinary process outlined in your employment handbook. This ensures everyone is aware of how employee misconduct is dealt with.

If you don't follow a fair procedure and take inappropriate disciplinary action, you may be taken to an employment tribunal.

Peninsula offers 24/7 HR advice which is available 365 days a year. We take care of everything when you work with our HR experts.

Want to find out more? Contact us on 0800 028 2420 and book a free consultation with an HR consultant today.

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