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Disciplinary Procedure – a Simple Guide

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A disciplinary procedure is a formal way for an employer to manage the poor performance and/or unacceptable behaviour of an employee.

Where can I find my employer’s disciplinary policy?

Most employer’s will make their disciplinary policy part of their office manual – along with grievance policy too for example. The office manual is usually referred to in an employee’s contract of employment and will form part of their terms and conditions of employment.

What sort of things result in disciplinary action?

Disciplinary action is usually brought to manage an employee’s poor performance, and/or unacceptable behaviour.

What are examples of unacceptable behaviour and poor performance?

Examples of poor performance might include: time keeping; inability to do the job; rudeness; through to more serious matters such as: theft; intoxication; or fighting. The former are likely to be deemed as matters of misconduct, and the latter potentially gross misconduct.

Should there be warnings before a disciplinary procedure?

A disciplinary procedure should never come as a shock to an employee. Ideally, an employee who is (in the eyes of their employer) performing badly or whose behaviour is wanting should be made aware of the issues on an informal basis first. This might include: talking to them pointing out the shortfalls; listening to any issues they have; agreeing a plan to see improvement; and perhaps even setting up training and support.

What is the first step of a disciplinary process?

If informal managing has failed to see an improvement, then the employer may deem it necessary to formalise things and move to a formal disciplinary process. The term is perhaps misleading as it should never be pre-judged that the outcome with be one of a punitive nature. Nevertheless, having decided to pursue this route (of a formal disciplinary process) the employer must first notify the employee in writing that the process is about to begin.

Notice of disciplinary proceedings?

Having decided to take formal proceedings against the employee, and employer must then notify them in writing. That can be by email or letter. Either way, that notice must include: details of the alleged misconduct; evidence supporting the problems; any information around issues the employer would like to talk; the date time and place of the disciplinary hearing; confirmation of the employee’s right to be accompanied. The notice should also include confirmation of what the outcomes might include.

Who attends a disciplinary hearing?

The employer will (of course) be in attendance and may have more than one member of the management and HR team there. The employer is entitled in law to be accompanied by a member of staff or trade union representative. Both employer and employee may call witnesses if relevant to the hearing.

How does an employer make a decision about disciplinary action?

An employer will normally write to the employee to confirm their decision following the disciplinary hearing.

Issues like timekeeping may bring about disciplinary action.

What are the possible outcomes of a disciplinary process?

The likely outcomes include: no action; a first warning; a final warning; dismissal; demotion; or perhaps training and support. The outcome should always be seen to have followed a full process and as such an employer must not pre-judge the outcome.

Can I appeal my employer’s disciplinary decision?

The employers written decision should include the process for the employee to appeal should they wish to. The office manual should also set out the appeal process.

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