Disciplinary Policy & Process

Are you an employer looking to put in place a disciplinary procedure policy? Or are you an employee who is facing disciplinary proceedings? Want to know how much a disciplinary policy costs? Well, we have tried to answer all of your employment law questions here in our disciplinary process section. If there are still questions that you have around the subject of disciplinary processes, please just get in touch with one of our expert employment lawyers. You can email us at info@qlaw.co.uk or call 03300 020 365! 





Disciplinary Policy & Process FAQs

A disciplinary policy is the rules set by your employer setting out their expectations of their employees around things like conduct; performance; and critically also then setting out the process by which those matters will be managed if an employee’s behaviour or performance fall short of those ‘rules’.

You can usually find your employer’s disciplinary policy in their staff handbook or office manual, or sometimes in your contract of employment. If your employer changes or updates the disciplinary policy, they should notify all staff of any such changes.

A disciplinary process is the steps an employer must take to manage an employee who they believe is falling short of the expected behaviour for their given role or job. It is sometimes used for performance issues, though it’s better for an employer to have a separate performance management or performance improvement procedure.

You should be able to find your employer’s disciplinary process set out in their disciplinary policy which is usually contained in what is called the staff handbook or office manual, or sometimes in your contract of employment. That will set out the steps involved in the disciplinary process.

The first step of any disciplinary process will normally be informal managing. As such, that is trying to get an employee to an acceptable level of performance or behaviour without a formal disciplinary process beginning.

That informal management is likely to include training, support, and encouragement. And, it will be around the employees performance and/or conduct. If informal management is unsuccessful then the next step is to start a formal disciplinary process. The first step of that process is likely to be an investigation meeting held between employer and employee.

No! A disciplinary procedure should never start with the outcome already being decided by the employer! A properly run procedure is there to provide a safe platform for both employee and employer. The rationale for the procedure being recorded is of course borne out of the fact that the outcome MAY result in a serious result for the employee. However, one outcome of a disciplinary process might be that no action is needed to be taken.

An employer can notify an employee of proposed disciplinary action either by email or letter. Either way, when notifying the employee of the forthcoming disciplinary process, that notice should include: details of the alleged misconduct; examples of evidence supporting the alleged problem; 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; and finally it should set out possible outcomes.

The disciplinary hearing is the point at which the employee will have all of the alleged misconduct put them again by their employer, and will have an opportunity both to respond to the allgeations, as well as ask questions of their own (as will the employer). The purpose of the meeting is to allow the employer to decide upon an appropriate outcome. The employee must be allowed to have a companion with them (to ‘be accompanied’).

Yes! It is a legal requirement of your employer to notify you of your right to be accompanied by a companion at any disciplinary hearing(s). That companion can be a work colleague, or trade unions representative. The employer may allow a spouse or relative but it is at their discretion to do so – unless the contract of employment specifically permits it.

Your employer must notify you of your right to be accompanied by a companion at any disciplinary hearing. That can be either a colleague or trade union representative. Generally, spouses and friends are not permitted but it is at the discretion of your employer to allow that. If your contract of employment makes specific provision (via the disciplinary process) to permit spouses, partners, or friends then of course your employer should allow it.

No, you do not have to attend a disciplinary hearing. However, it is your opportunity to provide your version of events and in the absence of a good reason excusing your attendance it may of course look bad should you later wish to challenge the decision of your employer.

How long is a piece of string?! There is however no specific requirement in law setting out the timeframes to be adhered to with a disciplinary process. The ACAS guidelines state that an employer should deal with any disciplinary process without “unreasonable delay”. What constitutes unreasonable delay is down to the circumstances of the misconduct or performance issues.

At the disciplinary hearing, the employer will set out again (having already done so in writing) the allegations relating to conduct or performance. They will go through both the details of the allegations, and the evidence in support of those matters. The employee (and/or their companion) will then have the opportunity to: set out their own case; deal with the allegations; show their own evidence; call any witnesses; and ask the employer any questions they wish to raise.

No, a disciplinary processes should always be undertaken by an employer with an open mind, and without preconceived decisions being made. So, the start of a disciplinary process should not include a decided outcome – whether dismissal or otherwise.

A disciplinary process is the formal procedure for an employer to raise concerns against an employee. A grievance procedure is the formal process allowing an employee to raise concerns they have with their employer.

Your employer’s disciplinary process is usually to be found in what’s known as the staff handbook or office manual, or sometimes in your contract of employment. This procedure and other formal office matters contained within the office do not usually form part of your contractual terms and conditions of employment but your contract and/or the handbook will say if they do.

The outcome of a disciplinary process must be kept confidential by your employer. However, your employer is permitted to talk to colleagues about the fact that the process is happening, as it is something that can cause unease and concern in the workplace for others.

A disciplinary process must be recorded by your employer, along with the outcome.

Yes, all employers should have a disciplinary process. In practice, the only point at which a company is likely to be criticised for not having a disciplinary process is if a dispute with an employee ends up before an employment tribunal. Not having a disciplinary process at that point is likely to see any employment tribunal take a dim view of the employer. It is not however like driving a car without a driving licence and there are not disciplinary process police out there questioning employers to show they have a disciplinary process!

When your employer concludes the disciplinary process they will confirm in writing what their decision is. They will include in that written decision the details of how when and where you should appeal that decision should you wish to. You would also expect this appeal process to be set out in your employers disciplinary process held (usually) in the office manual.

Yes, an employer is entitled to manage their business as they see fit, and that includes managing the performance and conduct of their staff. However, the law does require to them adhere to the requirements of exercising and following ‘proper process’ when they do so. So this will include having a written policy that is in line with the law, and the employer must be seen to follow that due process. What an employment tribunal is unlikely to do is to seek to retrospectively manage a business. Their role is simply to ensure that the relevant employment law is followed, and due process as regards disciplinary action.

If you disagree with the outcome of a disciplinary process you should lodge a formal notice with your employer. When the disciplinary process is complete, your employer should provide you with their written decision. Included in that decision should be details of how where and when you should lodge an appeal against the disciplinary decision. The details of the appeal process should also be included in the disciplinary policy contained in the office manual.

Each employer may have details of what they see as possible outcomes of disciplinary action contained within their disciplinary process in the staff handbook or office manual. This does not usually form part of your contractual terms and conditions of employment. The typical outcomes may include: no action taken; informal warning; first written warning; final written warning; demotion; training and support; and of course even dismissal, or summary dismissal for the worst disciplinary offences.

Bear with us as we’re intending to post a template disciplinary policy here shortly for you to use as a guide! It’s better to have a disciplinary policy specifically tailored for your business, though, with appropriate disciplinary offences that will usually lead to dismissal/summary dismissal. It’s also best to have a separate performance management or performance improvement policy and procedure.

We would provide you with a pack made up of an appropriately tailored grievance policy, disciplinary policy and performance management policy. If you wanted a full staff handbook, we can do that too.

Free template disciplinary policy? Yes, you read it correctly – we’ve created a template disciplinary policy which you can access via our Downloads section.  It’s much better to have a disciplinary policy specifically tailored for your business, though, with provisions relevant to your unique business. It’s also best to have a separate performance management or performance improvement policy and procedure, rather than wrapping it up in the disciplinary policy.  That said, this template will give you a decent starting point – just contact us at employment@Qlaw.co.uk if you have any queries, and we’ll arrange a chat to talk through your needs and how we can help you get to where you need to be.

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