Help - I need to do a disciplinary! How do I get it right?

One of the most difficult parts of people management is dealing with employees who aren’t behaving in the way that they should while at work. Every business needs set written disciplinary procedures in place, and there is plenty of guidance available for employers to use to formulate their own policies and course of action. Here, we cover off the basics of how to get disciplinary procedures right, fair and legally sound.

What does a Disciplinary Policy need to include?

Every company with staff needs written disciplinary rules and procedures, covering employee conduct and often, performance. These rules must make clear what is acceptable and what is considered unacceptable, as well as laying out what action will be taken if the rules are broken. Staff must have access to this policy and its usual for it to form part of an employee handbook and/or employment contract.

What guidance is there for Employers on Disciplinary Procedures?

In the UK, the guidance for disciplinary rules are set out in the ACAS Code of Practice on Disciplinary and Grievance Procedures. These lay out the best practice procedures step by step, including investigations, communications, appeals and dismissals. It also covers grievance procedures and capability procedures, for those employers who need to include poor performance in their disciplinary protocol.

What risks are there to Employers who don’t complete Disciplinary Proceedings correctly?

Whilst businesses aren’t legally bound to complete disciplinary proceedings to ACAS standards, those unhappy with the way procedures have been implemented can take their employers to an employment tribunal. If the tribunal finds that the ACAS code hasn’t been properly followed, the employees’ financial award can be 25% higher (and will be payable by the failing employer).

What is the best approach to take to Disciplinary Procedures?

Disciplinary proceedings are usually stressful for all parties and can severely impact the relationship between employer and employee. However, there are several ways that employers can ease the burden of these difficult situations:

- Stay open and honest. Transparent and clear communications are imperative during disciplinary proceedings and will keep everything as simple as possible for all involved

- Follow the ACAS code. The ACAS guidance on disciplinary protocol makes such situations clear to navigate and lessens the risk of anything going wrong

- Attempt early intervention. If an employer senses that a staff member may be going down the wrong path (behaviour or performance wise), speaking to them about the issue or potential issue early can eliminate unnecessary escalation, and lessen the possibility of the disciplinary protocol having to be used

- Stay respectful of trade union intervention. Businesses can often feel fearful of union involvement with their workforce, but embracing it and working with a union rather than against them can help maintain fairness and demonstrate a commitment to employees’ best interests

- Keep mindful of impact. For many, the possibility of losing their job will have devastating impact on their lives, and so naturally, the situation will be extremely unpleasant and stressful for them to deal with. Whilst this shouldn’t impact your ultimate decision or consequences actioned, it does need to be considered in the everyday interaction and dealing with of the person concerned.

Whilst there is plenty of advice and guidance around disciplinary issues in the workplace online, it can seem really hard to manage especially when the situation may be complex or you are a small business owner who may be too close to the situation, it can be hard to remain impartial. This is where we can help, contact us on 01327 640070 or email always talk it through before you make a decision or react!