Employers of all sizes and across all sectors are prone to making common mistakes when it comes to dealing with internal disciplinary processes – we offer some top tips to help you avoid these:
- Always start with your own internal disciplinary process; follow it and provide a copy to the individual who is subject to the process.
- If you are considering suspending an employee, ask yourself whether they really need to be suspended. Is there a risk to the business or the fairness of the process if they remain in work? Suspension should only be used when absolutely necessary.
- Set the disciplinary allegations out in detail in conjunction with the disciplinary policy and make sure they are consistent throughout the process. An employee is entitled to know what allegations have been made about them.
- It is good practice to undertake an investigation into the allegations before a disciplinary hearing is scheduled. Relevant documents can be collated, witnesses interviewed, and a report compiled to determine if there is a case to answer. Where possible, have someone independent undertake the investigation.
- If the matter proceeds to a disciplinary hearing, use another senior person to conduct this meeting. Ensure the employee knows they have the right to be accompanied by a work colleague or TU representative.
- The outcome of the disciplinary meeting should be carefully considered and reasoned. If the outcome is dismissal on the grounds of gross misconduct, exercise extreme care and caution in respect of the process and associated outcome. Is this a reasonable sanction?
- Communicate the outcome of the disciplinary in a timely way. If a disciplinary sanction is being imposed, the employee is entitled to appeal the outcome.
- Any appeal should be heard by someone who was not previously involved in the process. An employee is also entitled to be accompanied at the appeal hearing.
All companies should have an internal disciplinary policy within their staff handbook/office manual or on the intranet.
The Acas Code of Practice is another reference point to ensure fairness in the process. Any failure to follow the Code can result in a 25% uplift in any compensation awarded to an employee if they are successful in a tribunal claim. If in doubt, ask, and the earlier you seek advice the less likely it is that problems will arise.