Discipline Within The Workplace
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Having a well-written disciplinary policy in place will benefit your business immensely in the long term. An essential document for every business and organisation, it should outline all the acceptable and unacceptable behaviours in your workplace, including the action taken if the rules are broken. Employees should be given a copy within their handbook when they start employment; instant access to the policy should be available whenever they require it.
Your disciplinary policy should be based on the ACAS code on disciplinary procedures. Adhering to the policy rules can protect your business in the case of a disciplinary employment tribunal. If you don't follow the disciplinary procedures outlined in an employee’s contract, they could make a breach of contract claim.
Many rules in your disciplinary policy could be specific to the nature of your business or workplace. Due to your industry-specific activities, your policy may undergo several amendments that are version controlled over the years as you gain more knowledge, experience and lessons learned through the best practice methods in your workplace. Your policy may be a work in progress document, but it should still include the basic ACAS code rules.
The policy should list all types of acceptable and unacceptable behaviour. Rules on absence and timekeeping promote employees to work their contracted hours for the benefits of the business, minimising unauthorised absences. While regulations around health and safety should encourage staff to work mindful for their well-being and of their colleagues. Principles of the internet and phone usage should ensure daily professional conduct. Most importantly, managers should lead by example.
In the event of gross misconduct, an occurrence that is more serious, such as physical violence, fraud or theft, the policy should outline the consequences such as dismissal without notice.
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The Disciplinary Process
Before an issue being raised, fact gathering should take place to find out as many details about the offence, while considering the employees details such as their age, previous disciplinaries and training history, particularly if it is a performance related issue. It may be necessary to gather anonymous witness data before the meeting to validate the case. If the manager can conduct an informal workplace discussion with the employee to solve the issue, formal disciplinary processes will not have to be initiated.
If the formal route for disciplinary is required, a letter should be written to the employee, outlining the issue and inviting them to attend a disciplinary hearing. The letter should state they have the right to be accompanied.
Advice on Carrying Out A Disciplinary Meeting
A different manager should conduct the disciplinary meeting and should be well equipped with all the facts gathered. They should be prepared to make detailed notes and minute of the meeting. During the meeting, the issue should be discussed with questions necessary to support the investigation and evidence gathered, while identifying whether the employee agrees with the evidence presented or not. The employee should be allowed to present their own case with witnesses if necessary. The meeting should be presented in a non-interrogating, professional manner, where both parties remain diplomatic.
After the meeting, a subsequent letter should be sent to the employee stating the action or decision made. The decision could vary between any of the following:
No further action to be taken
- A written warning
- A final warning
- A reduction in job title
- Dismissal from the role
- Co-worker mediation
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Allow for an appeal
The letter should also give details of a nominated contact to appeal to if the employee disagrees with the outcome of the disciplinary case. A deadline should be stated for when to submit an appeal by, following which you should aim to hold the hearing for the appeal as soon as possible after this date.
As an employer, it is your duty to keep written records of all disciplinary cases.
Mediation between co-workers is designed to resolve conflicts. Transforming disputes into productive collaborations, the neutral individual works with both sides to understand their issues before finding a solution to solve them. Mediation often requires a structured approach to mend relationships, improve communication and reduce tension.
Written agreements help formalise the mediation procedure. However, the success of the mediation outcomes depend on the mediator’s skills and ability. Mediators will have undergone the necessary formal training to carry out their role.
About the author
James is on the Business Development & Account Management team at Neathouse Partners and regularly posts articles surrounding issues in HR & Employment Law, including case law & legislation updates. If you have a particular issue you would like addressed, feel free to drop James an email, and he will be happy to offer his assistance.
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