Handling Grievance & Discipline Procedures

Discipline & Grievance Procedures & The Employment Contract

You can choose whether to include disciplinary and grievance procedures in the employment contract. However, if you do and you fail to follow the procedures, you will be in breach of the contract. Alternatively the procedures can be included in the written statement, or in a separate document – like the staff handbook – which should be referred to in the written statement. For more information on written statements, see our business advice article on the employment contract.

The legal position

Currently you’re not required by law to have discipline or grievance procedures but you must:

  • Specify in employees’ written statements who they should go to if they have any grievances not related to a disciplinary decision. If you have 20 employees or more, you must also set out any further steps that may follow. There is an implied term in all employment contracts that you will give your employees the opportunity to have their grievances addressed and that you will deal with them promptly. For more information on implied terms, see our guide on the employment contract.
  • Allow a worker attending a formal hearing to be accompanied by a colleague or trade union official.

If you employ 20 staff or more the written statements must specify:

  • any disciplinary rules you have (or say where they can be found)
  • who they should appeal to against disciplinary action, the procedure for doing this and any further steps that may follow

Future changes to the law

Since October 2004 you will have had to follow minimum disciplinary and grievance procedures (regardless of how many employees you have). Failure will harm your defence in any employment tribunal claim brought against you. You will need to include these procedures in employees’ written terms and conditions.

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