Short Guide to Disciplinary Procedures
An almost inevitable consequence of employing staff is the need to take disciplinary action on occasion. Ideally you will have familiarised all staff with the business’s formal rules and procedures, which should set out clearly what is not permitted and what action could result from a breach of the rules.
Where the matter is minor you may wish to have an informal discussion with the employee and put a copy of the notes or minutes of the meeting in the employee’s staff file. A copy of these should be given to the employee making clear what will happen if there is a recurrence.
The next step
If you believe that the situation merits formal disciplinary proceedings then you should take the following steps:
Whether the issue is misconduct or performance you should always have an investigation as the first step. You should write to the employee setting out clearly what the issue is and invite them to a meeting to discuss the matter. If you need to investigate further you should question any member of staff who can help clarify matters. Any statements given by staff can be anonymous at this stage. The employee who is being investigated will be given a copy of the statements.
It is sometimes appropriate to suspend. Suspension is not a disciplinary sanction and should only be used when it is necessary to protect the interests of the business.
Invitation to a formal meeting
When there is a need to proceed to formal disciplinary action, consideration should be given to whether the outcome will be a disciplinary warning (or improvement note) or dismissal. Employees who are potentially facing dismissal have a right to be informed of this in writing. The invite should be accompanied with a copy of the company’s Disciplinary Procedure, a copy of the minutes of the Investigation Meeting, and a copy of the witness statements, if any. Employees can also call witnesses and they should be informed of this.
Right to be accompanied
Although the law gives the right to be accompanied by a work colleague or someone representing a trade union, there may be times when an employee wants a member of their family to be their companion. If the employee is young or vulnerable you may choose to agree to this or not agree if you feel this would complicate matters. Any companion should be told that they can address the meeting but cannot answer questions on behalf of the employee.
Re-arranging meeting times
If the employee or their companion cannot make the meeting then it can be re-arranged to a time that is convenient. If the problem is with the companion making the meeting then you can insist that the meeting takes place within five working days of the original meeting date. If the companion can’t accommodate this the employee should find another companion.
If the employee repeatedly puts off the meeting or is unable to make it due to health reasons then it is possible to have the meeting in the absence of the employee. Always take advice in this situation.
At the hearing
You should welcome everyone and explain the procedure for the meeting. This should include:
- how the meeting will be conducted (issue will be described and the employee will be asked for their version of events);
- breaks can be taken at the employee’s request;
- that they can confer in private with their companion if they wish;
- if any new information comes to light that requires to be investigated, that the meeting will be adjourned and reconvened after investigation has taken place;
- that any outcome will be in writing.
A later Business Matters will deal with warnings and there will be a further Business Matters on issues to consider when contemplating dismissal.
The employee should be informed if they have a right of appeal, who it is to (someone independent of the process so far), what the timescale is for appealing and that they have the right to be accompanied at the appeal.
New evidence at appeal
If new compelling evidence is raised at the appeal, adjourn the hearing until it is investigated. The employee should see the outcome of this new investigation and be called to another meeting.
Outcomes of appeal
The decision which will be final can be to:
(a) confirm the original decision;
(b) revoke the original decision; or
(c) substitute a different penalty.
This guide has been written by June Fraser of Beacon Workplace Law Ltd. Beacon offers reasonable, fixed fee, advice and representation. For more information contact firstname.lastname@example.org