Handling Grievance & Discipline Procedures

Types of disciplinary action

After a disciplinary hearing, you can:

  • drop the matter
  • provide counselling or training to help to resolve the matter
  • take disciplinary action

Take account of factors such as the worker’s previous record and any special circumstances in making your decision. For a list of possible factors to consider see investigating disciplinary matters.

Stages of the procedure

You should follow a staged approach when taking disciplinary action. Typical stages are:

  1. informal oral warning – given for minor infringements and not part of the formal disciplinary procedure
  2. formal oral warning
  3. written warning, and sometimes a second written warning
  4. final written warning
  5. dismissal

If the previous warning has had no effect and the misconduct continues, you should move on to the next stage of the procedure.
Following these stages should help you to handle the issue fairly. It may be appropriate to bypass a number of stages. The key test is what is reasonable in the circumstances, and you should make this clear in your disciplinary procedure.

Other sanctions

Where the misconduct is serious but falls short of gross misconduct, other options – provided the worker’s contract allows – include:

  • transferring the worker to another job
  • demotion
  • non-payment of bonuses

To avoid potential claims to an employment tribunal, you should expressly provide for any of these sanctions in the contract of employment.


The severest sanction is dismissal. Make it clear in your warnings that repetition will result in dismissal.

For gross misconduct you may be able to dismiss without giving notice or pay in lieu of notice but you must still follow fair and proper procedures. You could suspend a worker on full pay whilst an investigation is carried out. Having a provision allowing suspension in your employment contracts is a good idea. You should make sure though that any suspension has reasonable and proper cause, and that you have considered alternative action eg, a transfer.

An important final part of the disciplinary procedure is the right of appeal – see appeals against disciplinary/grievance decisions.

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