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Disciplining Staff

This employment guide sets out the steps you need to follow when conducting a disciplinary hearing.

Introduction

Employers constantly tell us that one of the most difficult aspects of running a business is having to deal with staff issues such as people not turning up for work, poor performance or attitude, or having to conduct a disciplinary hearing.

It is inevitable that you will have to deal with disputes and conflicts with your staff.

We recommend that you initially try and resolve these informally. However there may be circumstances where you are left with little option but to tackle these issues on a more formal basis.

Disciplinary hearings

If you do have to hold a disciplinary hearing, for whatever reason, it is important that you can demonstrate that you have followed a fair and transparent process. Failure to do so could result in any dismissal being declared unfair and you could find yourself liable to tribunal compensation costs, which in some areas can be unlimited.

Tribunals also have the ability to increase compensation awards by up to 25 per cent if a fair procedure has not been followed.

We recommend that any disciplinary process should include the following stages:

Investigation and fact finding

This is the stage where you gather the facts and evidence regarding a work-related issue. You may need to arrange to meet with the employee or other staff to take written statements. It is very important that at this stage you do not appear to be prejudging the outcome of any disciplinary process.

Disciplinary invite

If, following the investigation stage, you feel that there is sufficient evidence to invite your employee to a disciplinary hearing you need to issue the employee with a ‘disciplinary invite letter’. This needs to include certain essential information and HR:4UK can help you draft a legally compliant disciplinary invite letter.

Disciplinary hearing

This is the most important stage of the disciplinary process and it is where some employers fail - which then places them at considerable risk of being accused of unfairly dismissing an employee. This can be a costly mistake if your employee takes you to an employment tribunal and wins the case.

To avoid this the disciplinary hearing should:

  • Present all the evidence that you are relying on to investigate any allegations.
  • Confine any discussions to the allegations stated in the disciplinary invite letter.
  • Give the employee a chance to respond to the allegations and evidence.
  • Grant the employee a break from the disciplinary hearing if requested.
  • Fully document matters discussed and responses received. This should be written up after the meeting, with a copy provided to the employee.

Outcome

Before you come to a decision on your next action you should adjourn the meeting to review the evidence and any representations made by or on behalf of the employee. It is good practice to call HR:4UK, whilst we can’t make a decision for you, we will be more than happy to discuss your views and give an opinion/outline any potential risks. Once you have made your decision, reconvene the meeting and tell your employee what you have decided.

If you decide to issue a warning then you will need to confirm this in writing, together with how long the warning will stay on the employee’s file.

If you decide that you wish to terminate an employee’s contract of employment, then you must inform the employee of your decision, confirming the reasons for the dismissal.

Appeal

Whenever a disciplinary sanction is imposed an employee must be advised of his or her right of appeal. We have produced a separate guide on handling appeals.

Getting it right

The penalties for unfair dismissal that can be imposed by an employment tribunal are potentially unlimited. It is important that you act in strict accordance with the law.

HR:4UK can assist you ‘every step of the way’ – but it is much easier to do things correctly from the outset than to try to put things right once the process has begun to go wrong.

For further help and advice, speak to one of our advisors by calling 01455 444222 or complete our online enquiry click here and an advisor will contact you shortly.