Handling Grievance & Discipline Procedures


Setting Out Disciplinary Rules

Draw up rules to set the standards of conduct and performance you require. Make sure your rules are fair, clearly written and reflect the needs of your business.

Rules can help:

  • your workforce to understand what you expect of them
  • to contain and resolve issues as they arise
  • avoid potential employment tribunal complaints

You cannot expect to list everything that might lead to disciplinary action but you could cover:

  • absence
  • discrimination, bullying and harassment
  • health and safety
  • personal appearance
  • prohibited activities
  • smoking
  • standards of work
  • timekeeping
  • use of company facilities and equipment

The rules should also set out behaviour which will be treated as gross misconduct – misconduct judged so serious that it’s likely to lead to dismissal without notice. Always carry out a proper investigation before any worker is dismissed, whether for gross misconduct or otherwise – see the page in this guide on investigating disciplinary matters. It’s important to give examples of what will count as gross misconduct, such as:

  • bullying
  • drunkenness or drug abuse
  • fighting at work
  • fraud
  • gross negligence
  • gross insubordination
  • serious breaches of health and safety rules
  • theft
  • wilful damage to the employer’s property

Make it clear in your disciplinary procedure that the list is not meant to be exhaustive. What counts as gross misconduct varies depending on the type of business and the role of the worker.

Criminal Offences

Don’t dismiss someone merely because they have been charged with or convicted of a criminal offence, either at work or outside. You should investigate what action is justified given the worker’s role and consider whether it affects their suitability to carry on their job. If it does, use normal disciplinary rules. If it doesn’t, decide whether you can keep their job open during any period of absence. Base your decision on a reasonable belief following a reasonable investigation into the circumstances. However, if a criminal charge has been made, don’t put off taking appropriate fair and reasonable disciplinary action merely because the outcome of the prosecution isn’t yet known.

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