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Discipline employees

Follow the correct steps and procedures when disciplining your employees


Discipline employees FAQs

  • How to discipline employees

    When an employment relationship goes wrong, taking action can be a difficult step. It's vital that employers comply with the rules and procedures necessary to discipline employees in order to avoid the risk of getting taken to an Employment Tribunal. Use a Dismissal checklist to ensure you have followed the necessary steps.

    Certain steps should be taken when it comes to disciplining employees. The first thing to do is ascertain whether the matter relates to misconduct or poor performance. If an informal talk doesn't solve the issue, a formal disciplinary process should then take place, with potential sanctions being applied. It's important that all the relevant steps are communicated to the employee and that they are provided with a chance to present their case and defence and be given a right of appeal.

  • How to investigate misconduct

    Make sure you investigate misconduct properly in order to avoid falling foul of any employment law regulations. You should first check any Disciplinary procedures set out in your HR policies before deciding whether you need to suspend the employee accused of misconduct while you investigate. Full pay and benefits must continue during the course of any suspension. If you decide that a suspension is necessary, consider using a Suspension letter.

    Collecting accurate facts and evidence relating to the misconduct is crucial to enable a fair process. Interview witnesses as soon as possible, ensuring that interviews take place in private. If you talk to the employee accused of the misconduct, make it clear to them that any investigatory interview is not a disciplinary hearing. Once you've assessed all the information, you can decide whether to just have an informal meeting or proceed to a disciplinary hearing. If you decide to hold a disciplinary hearing for misconduct, consider using an Invitation letter to a disciplinary hearing for misconduct. For further information, read Disciplinary process.

  • Managing poor performance

    Managing your employees' performance effectively can improve productivity and morale, as well as avoiding legal problems should poor performance become an issue. Following set performance processes ensures consistent treatment and transparency, giving employees a clear understanding of expectations. If they fall below these expectations, having an informal meeting can often be enough to turn around poor performance. However, if matters don't improve or deteriorate further, it may be necessary to arrange a formal disciplinary hearing. If you decide to hold a formal hearing, consider using an Invitation letter to a poor performance hearing.

  • What is a disciplinary hearing?

    If you choose to go ahead with a disciplinary hearing, first consider writing an Invitation letter to a disciplinary hearing for misconduct to the accused employee to arrange the hearing, confirm the allegations and witnesses and explain the possible consequences. If the disciplinary hearing concerns poor performance, as opposed to misconduct, you can use an Invitation letter to a poor performance hearing instead. After they've received either letter, the employee should have at least five working days to prepare so they can prepare their evidence and any defence they wish to present.

    At the hearing itself, there should be a chairperson, someone representing the employer and the employee, and, if possible, an HR person. Furthermore, all employees have the right to be accompanied to disciplinary hearings and appeals by a fellow worker or trade union representative, if they reasonably request this, and this right should be communicated to them. The companion's role at the meeting is to act on behalf of the employee.

    The allegations should be presented and the employee should be allowed to answer the case and set out their own argument, responding to witness statements and calling their own witnesses. A decision should then be made and relevant sanctions imposed, if appropriate. For further information, read How to run a disciplinary hearing.

  • Disciplinary sanctions

    When it comes to taking disciplinary action against an employee, your actions should always be an appropriate response to the situation and you should avoid being excessive. Although you can choose to confirm the decision at the end of the meeting, it's often helpful to allow a day or two before confirming a final outcome.

    A first offence should normally receive a first written or oral warning, valid for a set period of time, and second offences which occur while a first warning has been issued should receive a final written warning. Consider using a Disciplinary outcome letter for misconduct to issue a first or final written warning if the matter relates to misconduct or an Outcome letter for poor performance to issue a first or final written warning if the matter relates to poor performance. These letters should inform the employee that they have a right to appeal. For further information, read Disciplinary warnings.

  • Disciplinary appeals

    If the employee chooses to appeal the disciplinary decision, you should inform them of arrangements for an appeal hearing and tell them about their right to bring a companion. Consider using an Invitation letter to a disciplinary appeal hearing for misconduct or an Invitation letter to a poor performance appeal hearing as appropriate.

    The appeal can either be set up as a full re-hearing or as a review of the original decision. According to the ACAS code, an appeal must be conducted impartially and by a manager not previously involved (and more senior) if possible. The appeal will then proceed in the same manner as the original hearing if it's a re-hearing, or the procedural fairness of the original hearing will be examined if it's a review. After a decision has been reached it should be confirmed in writing. For further information, read Disciplinary appeals.

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