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Disciplinary Procedure for Employers

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Disciplinary procedures are designed to deal with gross misconduct, poor performance or both. Some employers may have separate procedures to address performance and capability issues. Specific procedures for performance will however, still follow the same principles of fairness laid out here.

Issues will vary from organisation to organisation but disciplinary procedures usually cover matters such as:

  • Conduct
  • Absence
  • Health and safety
  • Timekeeping
  • Use of company property like telephones, emails and internet

Remember that the disciplinary process covers an issue raised by an employer and a grievance is a matter raised by an employee.

Step 1: Investigate the issue

Don’t risk overlooking the details of the matter before taking any disciplinary action. It is important that you look into the matter as soon as possible with minimal delay. Sometimes this will mean holding an investigative meeting with the employee. The gathering of evidence is particularly important for when it comes to the disciplinary hearing.

Instances where it is considered necessary to suspend the employee with pay should be kept under review and for as brief of a period as possible. When suspending the employee it needs to made absolutely clear that the suspension is not a form of disciplinary action.

Step 2: Provide the employee with written notification

After gathering the evidence you should have a good idea of whether there is a disciplinary case to move forward with. If you have decided that there is a case then the next step should be to notify the employee in writing.

The written notification needs to give the employee:

  • Enough details about the alleged issue that they can prepare for the disciplinary meeting
  • An understanding of the possible consequences
  • Clear details about where and when the disciplinary meeting will take place
  • Advice that they are entitled to be accompanied to the meeting (It is a statutory right that employees can be accompanied to a disciplinary meetings by a colleague or trade union official)

At the time of giving the employee a written communication, you should also provide them with any written evidence such as witness statements.

Step 3: Hold a disciplinary meeting

The meeting should be held as soon as possible, whilst also allowing the employee time to prepare. Of course attendance to this meeting is important for all parties concerned.

The employer would usually begin a disciplinary meeting by explaining the complaint against the employee in question and run through the evidence that they previously had gathered.

The employee should then be allowed to explain their case and address any allegations that have been made. The employee should be allowed reasonable opportunities to ask questions and address points about the information provided by witnesses.

If either party (employer or employee) wishes to call additional witnesses to the disciplinary meeting at any time they need to give advanced notice of their intention to do so.

The employee’s companion

It is also important to remember that the employee is legally entitled to have an appropriate (depending on the circumstances of each case) colleague or union representative accompany them to this disciplinary meeting.

A trade union representative who is not in the employ of the employer in question is also allowed to attend although they must be certified by their union as being competent to accompany an employee.

The companion will be allowed to address the hearing, express the views of the employee in question and confer with them.

Crucially the companion does not have the right to answer questions on the behalf of the employee, nor does the companion have the right to address the hearing if it is against the employee’s wishes or prevents them from explaining themselves.

Step 4: Decide on action

After the hearing take stock and consider if further disciplinary action needs to be taken. If you decide that further action against an employee is justified then you must notify them again in writing.

If it is the first confirmed act of gross misconduct or unsatisfactory performance, the usual process would be to give the employee a written warning. After this any further misconduct or performance issues would normally result in a final written warning.

If the employee’s actions have had or are currently having a serious or harmful impact on your business the incident would usually be considered serious enough to issue a final written warning at this stage to the employee in question.

Before you make an impetuous decision always consult a professional

There are many elements to be considered if you decide to take disciplinary action against an employee. To avoid making a decision that could land your business in hot water, consult an employment law professional today and call us on 0161 115 6164.

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