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Disciplinary Procedure Steps – A Detailed Overview Of The Process

Why have a disciplinary policy and procedure?

However great a workforce you may have, no business is immune to unexpected issues around conduct arising which can lead to a disciplinary procedure needing to be enacted.

There is a requirement for a statutory minimum disciplinary policy and procedure regardless of the size of your business. By having a process in place, you will ensure that you are in the best position to deal with any issues that arise. It encourages and maintains standards of conduct and ensures fair and consistent treatment for all.

What is misconduct?

Misconduct is defined by ACAS as being when an employee’s inappropriate action breaks workplace rules.

Examples of this are:

  • Bullying
  • Harassment
  • Refusing to do work (insubordination)
  • Being absent without permission (AWOL)

Gross misconduct

Gross misconduct is an action that is so serious it breaks the relationship of trust between the employee and employer.

Examples of this are:

  • Fraud
  • Physical violence
  • Serious insubordination
  • Lack of care to duties or people (gross negligence)

If it is a case of gross misconduct, the suspension of the employee should be considered.

Misconduct outside of work

An employee could still face disciplinary action if it is deemed that the misconduct could have a detrimental effect on the business. For example, if an employee’s misconduct at a Christmas party reflects badly on the Company.

Can it be dealt with informally?

The purpose of a disciplinary process is to correct, not punish, work-related behaviour.

The disciplinary policy should allow you to seek an informal resolution where appropriate. It may be that the misconduct is best dealt with informally, for example through a conversation between colleagues or an agreed improvement plan.

But if you feel that it is more serious a misconduct and warrants disciplinary action, the formal disciplinary process should be followed.

The Disciplinary Procedure in 5 Steps 

Conducting disciplinary procedures at work has to be done with utmost care and attention to protect your business from legal claims. Following the below 5 steps for a disciplinary hearing ensures you are doing the formal procedure in a legally compliant manner.

The disciplinary process Step 1: Investigation

The first step in any disciplinary process is to understand what has happened and if there is a case to answer. To do this a full and thorough investigation should be carried out. Usually, this would be done by the line manager unless this was for some reason inappropriate.

The disciplinary process Step 2: Arranging the hearing

If the investigation reveals that the conduct warrants disciplinary action and there is a case to answer, a disciplinary hearing should be arranged.

The employee should be invited in writing to the hearing. This letter must include the location, date and time of the meeting, the alleged misconduct or circumstances that have led to the contemplation of disciplinary action, that the result of the hearing may lead to dismissal if this is appropriate, and that they have the right to be accompanied by a representative. Copies of any evidence that will be discussed at the hearing should also be provided.

Enough notice should be given to the employee that they have an opportunity to prepare a response. ACAS guidance gives the minimum notice from receipt of the invite letter to the holding of the hearing as 24 hours.

The disciplinary process Step 3: Holding the hearing

The meeting should be chaired by an employee senior to the employee accused of misconduct and someone independent from the investigation. In smaller businesses, this may be more difficult, but the same person should not conduct both the investigation and the disciplinary hearing.

At the meeting, the chair should listen to what the employee has to say. The outcome should never be prejudged. An adjournment should be taken to consider points raised by the employee during the hearing. Further investigation should be taken if required.

The disciplinary process Step 4: Outcomes

There are a number of actions that may be taken as the outcome of the disciplinary hearing:

  • No Action
  • Informal action – Where the misconduct is minor it might be that informal action is needed. This could involve ‘a word in their ear’ so they are aware that they should not have acted in a certain way.
  • Training – If the misconduct is a result of unawareness by the employee of a certain rule or requirement a more appropriate solution to disciplinary action may be additional or refresher training to ensure the action doesn’t reoccur.
  • Demotion
  • Formal Warnings – The employee should be informed of how long the warning will remain ‘live’ on their file.
  • Dismissal ­ – This would not usually be for a first misconduct offence unless it was a gross misconduct offence.

Whichever outcome is decided, this must be confirmed to the employee in writing. This letter should also include the reason for the decision and the right to appeal.

The disciplinary process Step 5: Appeal

This is an opportunity for someone separate to consider the outcome given based on all the facts. A more senior manager should represent the employer than the manager at the original hearing. The employee should be invited in writing as with the disciplinary hearing.

Tips for Employers

  • Ensure your process is fair and you are enacting it consistently;
  • Check that your process is legally compliant, up to date and regularly reviewed;
  • Ensure Managers have the skills and tools to complete the investigations and hearings.

How we can help

At Clover HR we can help you whether you have a disciplinary process in place or not. We can create a bespoke policy and process that is right for your business, or check that your existing process is complying with the up to date legal requirements. We also offer experienced training providers to create a bespoke training course for delivery to your managers to ensure they are confident in holding the meetings required through the process.

If you would like further guidance or support on this matter or require advice on other people management matters please contact Clover HR on 0121 516 0299 or email us at info@cloverhr.co.uk

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