If you get this wrong you could face an Employment Tribunal
Following correct disciplinary procedures is vital to ensure disciplinary issues are
properly dealt with. If you get this wrong, you may need to face an Employment
Tribunal with a case flawed by poor disciplinary procedures or bad advice.
OK I need to discipline an employee - what should I do?
Firstly remain calm and don't do anything rash like sacking them on the spot. You must properly investigate the circumstances of the misconduct first. If there is an immediate need to get the individual concerned off the premises for example they have been caught stealing red-handed and you need to collect evidence, or they have had a punch-up with their supervisor, then you should suspend them and send them home.This then gives you a chance to arrange for a proper investigation of what has happened.
If the misdemeanour is less serious or is a continuation of previous issues such as persistent latecoming then suspension is not necessary but you do need to investigate what has happened before taking any action.
I don't know how to carry out an investigation
Don’t worry – you don't need to be Hercule Poirot to do this! You just need to carry out a methodical examination of the facts of the case, speak to any witnesses (including the accused employee) and then decide if you think it should proceed to formal disciplinary action or not. There are full details, including a checklist, of how to do this on our blog here:
If it is decided that there is a disciplinary case to answer, the employee should be notified of this in writing. This notification should contain sufficient information about the alleged misconduct and its possible consequences to enable the employee to prepare to answer the case at a disciplinary meeting. You can also let them know the time and place of the disciplinary meeting and be sure you give them the right to be represented by a work colleague or Trade Union representative.
I'm ready to hold a disciplinary meeting - what do I need to do now?
Firstly hold the meeting as soon as is practicaly possible. At the meeting you should explain the complaint against the employee and go through the evidence that has been gathered. The employee should be allowed to set out their case and answer any allegations that have been made. They should also be given a reasonable opportunity to ask questions, present evidence and call any relevant witnesses. The individual's representative should be allowed to address the hearing to put and sum up the employee’s case, respond on behalf of the employee to any views expressed at the meeting and confer with the employee during the hearing. They do not, however, have the right to answer questions on the employee’s behalf.
I have decided that they are guilty of misconduct - can I dismiss them now?
You need to follow the process that you should have outlined in your disciplinary procedure, or if you don't have one, in the ACAS code of practice (N.B. there are some template Disciplinary Procedures below which you can download). It is usual to give the employee a written warning. A further act of misconduct within a set period would normally result in a final written warning. Or if an employee’s first misconduct is sufficiently serious, it may be appropriate to move directly to a final written warning. If they already have a current final warning or the misconduct is sufficiently serious then you can move to dismissal. The employee should be informed as soon as possible, and in writing of the reasons for the dismissal, the date on which the employment contract will end, the appropriate period of notice (which would tend to be paid off rather than served). Only in very serious cases of misconduct can dismissal be without notice.
Is there anything else I need to do?
Yes it is good practice to offer the employee a right of appeal against the disciplinary action if they feel it is unjust. If possible the appeal should be heard by a manager who is impartial and has not previously been involved. Try and do this quickly and let the employee know the outcome as soon as possible in writing.
Proper arrangements to air employee grievances can significantly improve your employee relations. All organisations should have a grievance procedure in place to address employee's discontent, in particular dealing with any grievance against their manager.
The grievance template procedure and advice on this page are compliant with the ACAS code of practice and will give your business the tools necessary to ensure you deal effectively with all employee grievance issues.
Our ebook on "How to Deal With Staff Who Can't or Won't Perform" by Alex Brogan has been published and is available now for download. It comes complete with a comprehensive online resource pack (including draft letters) and access to an email helpdesk. It outlines how to deal with all disciplinary and performance issues from staff not being competent, to cases of gross misconduct. There is a small charge for this (£4.99) which will support keeping our other resources free.