Handling Grievance & Discipline Procedures

Investigating Disciplinary Matters

When faced with a potential disciplinary matter, carry out a full investigation before taking any action. Consider:

  • what the alleged breach of discipline is
  • the surrounding circumstances
  • the consequences of the breach
  • the worker’s job
  • the worker’s experience and length of service
  • the worker’s history and disciplinary record
  • the evidence of witnesses
  • any other evidence that can shed light on the situation
  • any recent changes to the job or working environment
  • any previous incidents that relate to this one
  • whether the worker has received appropriate counselling or training
  • any mitigating circumstances eg health or domestic problems, or provocation

Once you have taken these factors into account, review the evidence to determine whether:

  • there is a case to answer
  • there is an alternative to disciplinary action – eg, an informal chat or redeployment
  • the complaint is serious enough to require a disciplinary hearing

Using informal procedures

It may be better to deal with minor cases of misconduct and most cases of poor performance by informal discussions, coaching and counselling rather than through the disciplinary procedure. If you feel the situation justifies an informal oral warning:

  • highlight the problem to the worker
  • explain what needs to be done to improve conduct or performance
  • outline how future conduct or performance will be reviewed and over what period
  • outline what further action may occur if the worker fails to improve their conduct or performance

Let the worker know that the informal warning is not part of the formal disciplinary procedure.

If you do issue a formal warning without a formal disciplinary hearing, and this forms part of a chain of events leading to an employee’s dismissal, you risk facing a claim for unfair dismissal.

Suspending an employee while an investigation takes place

For certain serious offences you may need to suspend a worker whilst a full investigation takes place. The worker should continue to receive their full pay. If you wish to be able to suspend a worker without pay, you will need to provide for this in their contract. However, try to avoid suspension as it penalises a worker before any disciplinary hearing has taken place.

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