Introduction to this document

Disciplinary procedure

Dealing with conduct and other disciplinary matters is one of the most difficult challenges for any employer. Make a wrong move and an employee can exact a high price. And even if you’ve a good reason to take action, tribunals demand that you follow the right procedure to the letter. Our disciplinary procedure shows you how to play it safe and stay on the right side of the law.

A fair misconduct dismissal

You only have to open the newspapers to read of another employment tribunal claim involving an allegedly unfairly dismissed worker. With average compensation for an unfair dismissal claim now standing at over £8,000, you can’t afford to run away from disciplinary issues. To show that a misconduct dismissal is fair, you need to demonstrate that you acted reasonably in all the circumstances both in treating your reason as a sufficient one for dismissing the employee and in the procedure you adopted to implement your dismissal decision. So, it’s all about covering your back with the right paperwork and following the correct procedures.

Follow the procedure

Your Disciplinary Procedure should play a pivotal role in how you deal with staff conduct problems. You can also use it to deal with performance issues if you don’t have a separate capability procedure. If someone steps out of line, you both know what’s expected by following your disciplinary procedure.

What’s a fair procedure?

At the very least, you must set out your disciplinary rules and your disciplinary and dismissal procedure as part of the employee’s written statement of employment particulars, although it can be contained within your Staff Handbook and it is still possible to make it non-contractual and therefore not legally binding. This means the employee won’t have a breach of contract claim should you inadvertently fail to follow any of its terms, although of course they could still have an unfair dismissal claim if they have sufficient continuity of employment, that is two years. Our disciplinary procedure sets out detailed provisions, including a warnings procedure, compliant with the general provisions of the Acas Code of Practice on Disciplinary and Grievance Procedures, so as to ensure the procedural fairness of a dismissal where the employee has the right to claim unfair dismissal. The proper use of a disciplinary procedure is a key component in determining whether a dismissal is procedurally fair. We have also included an exclusion provision so that the procedure doesn’t apply to short-serving employees i.e. those who don’t have the general right to claim unfair dismissal.

Formal or informal?

Before you can even think about some kind of disciplinary sanction, you need a good reason, e.g. misconduct. Be sure of your evidence before you confront the employee - getting your facts straight is vital, so a detailed investigation will be necessary. Then, you need to decide whether to tackle the matter through informal counselling or whether to opt for the formal disciplinary route. Cases of minor misconduct or unsatisfactory performance are usually best dealt with through informal counselling or coaching and this is reflected in our disciplinary procedure. There will, however, be situations where matters are more serious or where an informal approach has not worked. If informal action does not bring about an improvement, or the situation is considered to be too serious to be classed as minor, consider taking formal disciplinary action in accordance with our disciplinary procedure.