While dealing with employee matters can sometimes feel like a distraction from clinical commitments, ensuring disciplinary matters are addressed swiftly and efficiently often avoids concerns snowballing into a bigger problem for the practice.
Experienced and effective practice management staff will have come across issues with employees in terms of capability and conduct which, if left unaddressed, can upset the culture and impact on the performance of the practice overall.
Depending on the nature of the issue in question, informal steps to “nip it in the bud” can be all that is required. Likewise, general tensions between colleagues can be resolved by workplace mediation – either by a trusted member of practice management or by engaging an external mediator.
On occasion, serious or repeated acts of misconduct or performance concerns are best addressed through a formal disciplinary procedure.
Whether this is handled internally or by engaging the services of an external HR consultant is commonly determined by the nature of the circumstances and which staff members are involved.
Whichever route is taken, a disciplinary matter should be approached taking into account these key principles:
Before the meeting
- Prior to the meeting ensure you are familiar with the practice’s disciplinary procedure
- Familiarise yourself with the ACAS Code of Practice for Disciplinary and Grievances
- Ask either your HR support or an independent employee to take an accurate note of the meeting
- Send a letter to the employee inviting them to the disciplinary meeting, including time, date and location, and informing them of the allegation against them. Include a copy of the investigation report if one has been produced
- In the letter, ask the employee to notify you of any witness(es) or documents they wish to be present at the disciplinary hearing. Provided these are reasonable requests allow for them to be present.
During the meeting
- Introduce the meeting and inform the employee of the allegations against them
- Inform them of the agenda for the meeting and introduce everyone who is present
- Set out the case against the employee
- If there has been an investigation it may be necessary for the investigation officer to attend the meeting in order to present the case. This also provides an opportunity for the investigating officer to answer any questions the employee may have in relation to the investigation report.
- Ask open ended questions which allow the employee to explain. Closed questions may show an assumption has already been made by the disciplining officer
- Allow the employee to explain their case, do not cut them off or curtail their answers. Let them present any facts and any mitigation they wish to
- If the employee becomes aggressive or argumentative in the hearing allow for a short adjournment in the proceedings. On return, ask the employee if they are ready to continue. If the argumentative nature continues, consider whether a postponement may be necessary
- If any new matters arise that you think might need investigating, consider whether you will need to adjourn the disciplinary meeting
- Before concluding the meeting ask the employee whether there is anything they would like to add.
After the meeting
- Consider all the evidence and any mitigation made by the employee at the disciplinary meeting
- Consider the range of sanctions that are available in the present circumstances
- Weigh up the evidence you have heard and the mitigation against the range of responses when coming to your decision
- As far as possible ensure consistency in the sanctions imposed unless there are very obvious mitigating factors
- Inform the employee of the decision in writing of the outcome including how long any warning may remain ‘live’
- Inform the employee of their right to appeal, who they should appeal to and the timescales in doing so
- If an appeal is received, appoint an appeal officer who has not been involved in the disciplinary procedure to date.
No two disciplinary matters are the same. Having the confidence to address conduct and capability concerns when they arise comes with experience.vevevet