A disciplinary process can help an employee to improve and can also minimise losses or risks caused by misconduct and poor performance. Disciplinary processes must be conducted fairly and in accordance with statutory procedures to minimise the risk of grievances being raised and tribunal claims.
So what situations can the need for a disciplinary process arise? Well, there are only two primary reasons for disciplining an employee:
It can take many forms, such as persistent absenteeism, harassment, bullying, insubordination, and lateness. It is important to note that there may be reasonable grounds for absenteeism and lateness, for instance, illness or family emergencies. Some forms of misconduct may be considered gross, meaning they have severe consequences.
It is when an employee is unable to perform their work effectively. Use your organisation’s performance management procedures to conduct the disciplinary process.
Let’s take a deeper dive into the disciplinary process, how to conduct an investigation, conduct a disciplinary meeting, before finally looking at the actions you can take depending on the outcome of these.
Formally starting the procedure
When considering disciplinary action for an employee, check for any past incidents. How did management handle them? Consistent treatment of employees and handling of issues is essential here, in order to ensure fairness and reduce the risk of legal action.
Start by speaking with the employee to see if you can resolve the issue without formal disciplinary proceedings. If that’s not possible you may need to carry out an investigation before inviting the employee to a formal disciplinary meeting.
Ensure that you follow a fair process throughout the procedure. In the event that an employee makes a claim to an employment tribunal the process followed will be taken into account.
Holding a disciplinary meeting
After finishing investigations, hold the disciplinary meeting as soon as possible. Prepare for the meeting, by sharing the following information with the employee:
- The alleged misconduct or performance issue
- The evidence
- The date and time of the hearing
- The employee’s right to be accompanied
- The possible outcomes of the meeting.
If the employee has evidence and witnesses, inform them that they can bring and present them.
At the meeting, the manager responsible for the process should give the employee a fair opportunity to present their case. This may include presenting their own evidence and responding to the evidence and witnesses presented by the employer. It’s also important they can ask questions and call any relevant witnesses (there must be adequate notice for these individuals to attend).
After the meeting, keep a confidential written record of the proceedings and inform the employee of the next steps, and provide timeframes.
If the employee is unable to attend the meeting for any reason you may need to pause the procedure or reschedule. Consider the workplace rules regarding attendance at disciplinary procedures. The following factors can help you decide the next steps:
- How similar cases have been handled in the past
- The severity of the disciplinary issue
- The employee’s disciplinary, performance, and work record
- A medical opinion on the employee’s ability to attend.
Deciding on the disciplinary action
After reviewing the case and evaluating the evidence, decide whether disciplinary action is necessary or not. If it is not necessary, the issue is resolved and the employee continues working as normal. If you will take disciplinary action, choose an appropriate outcome from the workplace disciplinary policy that applies to the employee’s contract.
Possible disciplinary actions can include:
This is typically a result of gross misconduct, or it may be the final resort if the employee has received previous disciplinary warnings. A dismissal letter should include the reasons for dismissal, contract end date, notice period, and the right to appeal. In cases of gross misconduct, dismissal can be immediate, without notice or pay.
If the performance or misconduct issue is not severe enough to deserve serious action, give an informal warning. It is advisable to keep a written record of verbal warnings given to each employee.
A written warning needs to clearly communicate the following:
- The performance issue or misconduct committed
- Next steps, remedial actions, and timelines
- Consequences of failing to act on the remedial actions,
- Consequences of future misconduct or performance issues.
- The length of time the warning will remain in place
In the case of a performance issue, the warning should also outline any support and training the employer will provide.
Other penalties as per workplace disciplinary policy
These may include demotions and other disciplinary measures that apply to the employee’s contract.
Addressing issues after taking action
Document the disciplinary process appropriately for future reference, while also keeping these records confidential and in accordance with data protection laws.
Disciplinary actions can have a ripple effect within a team and can lead to negative impacts on staff morale. On top of this, they can damage the reputation of the employer, negatively impacting their ability to hire new staff. Getting the process right, is highly important, not just to the wellbeing of your staff, but in protecting the reputation of your company as a fair and responsible employer.
At The HR Dept, we provide expert guidance on how to handle disciplinary issues and grievances professionally. Get in touch today to find out more.