Disciplinaries: The Correct Way to Handle Things
When dealing with misbehaving staff, following the correct disciplinary procedure is esstential - and can help ensure you stay out of court
There are several different reasons why an employer might need to take an employee down the disciplinary route. It may be that they are not performing to the required standards of their role or they have unacceptable levels of absence or timekeeping. In more extreme cases, disciplinary may be as a result of gross misconduct, such as indecent behavior, assault or stealing company property. Whatever the reasons, it is important for employers to follow the correct disciplinary procedure, otherwise they may end up attending an employment tribunal. These are the steps to take to handle disciplinaries in the correct way.
No one really enjoys going down the route of disciplinary. It can be just as distressing for the manager, as it is for the employee. As such, it is good practice to try and resolve the matter in an informal way in the first instance, except where serious breaches are involved. It may be that the employee has issues outside of work which are affecting their performance or attendance, so it is a good idea to try and give them a chance to explain before taking them to a disciplinary. If the situation remains the same after an informal meeting, it is time to start the disciplinary process.
The employee should be informed about the disciplinary hearing in writing, which should be sent as recorded mail. The letter should outline the reasons for the disciplinary and the date and time of the disciplinary meeting. It should also state the names of the attendees. HR should always be in attendance at disciplinary meetings and the employee should be given the option to be accompanied by a colleague or trade union member during the meeting.
At the disciplinary hearing, the employer should discuss the issue, with evidence to support the claim. For example, if the issue is high absenteeism, the employer would be expected to give dates and an overall count of the level of absence. They would also refer to the expected standard of attendance, which should be in the employee handbook and/or contract. The employee has the opportunity to give their own reasons and to defend their position. It may be that information is incorrect or that a further hearing may be required, if fresh information is brought to the table.
There are several different outcomes which can result from a disciplinary hearing and it is important to inform the employee about this as quickly as possible after the meeting. It may be there will be no further action. If the employer is satisfied with the employee’s explanations and don’t feel that taking action would be fruitful, they may just leave it there. If the employer wishes to take action, they would issue a first written warning, final written warning or it may be that the only possible action is to dismiss the employee.
First written warning
If issuing a first written warning, the employee should be given details of what is expected from them to improve and this should include timescales. They should also be informed about how long the written warning will remain in their file and what the potential consequences are if they fail to improve standards i.e. final written warning or dismissal.
Final written warning
A final written warning is usually issued in cases where the employee has already received a first written warning or in cases were a first written warning is not deemed as sufficient. A final written warning is the last resort before the employee is dismissed. These are often issued before first written warnings in cases of gross misconduct.
This is obviously the last resort, but is essential in cases where there is no other option. In the case of dismissal, the employee should be informed, in writing, of the date the contract will end and any notice they will be given. Any dismissal should only be issued by a person who has the authority to do so within the business.
Regardless of the outcome, the employee has the right to appeal. Employees appeal when they feel that the outcome is unjustified and they must send their appeal letter, stating the reasons for it. An appeal hearing will then be arranged and the employee can be accompanied, if they wish. The grounds for the appeal will be discussed and the employer will then make a decision on whether to stick with the outcome or they may re-consider their position. The outcome of the appeal should be sent to the employee in writing in a timely manner following the hearing.
Employers should ensure they have their disciplinary procedures in writing and available for staff, either online or as a hard copy (or both) When there are no set disciplinary procedures, it can leave the company open to possible issues further down the line if a disciplinable event does occur.
Tom Rowbottom is founder of TempAuction.