Every business should have a clear set of standards relating to how employees conduct themselves, both in and outside of the workplace, and the levels of performance expected from them.

Whilst every company may have its own unique culture, there comes a time in every business when the standards expected from employees falls short of what is expected.  The question is; what can and should an employer do about it?

If the failing is relatively minor, often the easiest and quickest way to deal with the issue is to have a private word with the employee.  Often, this is all that is required to steer the employee back onto the right path.

If the failing is more serious or persistent, then an employer should look to deal with the matter in accordance with the company’s disciplinary procedure.

As an outline, the basic principles of undertaking disciplinary action are:

  • to deal with the issue as quickly as the circumstances will allow, whilst being careful not to proceed with too much haste
  • to remain objective and keep an open mind
  • to act fairly and consistently with all staff
  • to allocate responsibility of each stage of the process to a sufficiently senior employee
  • to carry out an investigation.  Here, witnesses are spoken to and evidence gathered as part of a fact-finding exercise
  • to carry out a disciplinary hearing.  Here, the full details of the alleged wrongdoing are put to the employee so they can put their response forward.  The employee does have the right to be accompanied at any formal disciplinary meeting
  • to consider all of the evidence before reaching a reasonable finding
  • to give the employee a proportionate and fair disciplinary sanction, if any sanction is appropriate
  • to let the employee appeal any formal decision made.

The extent to which the disciplinary process is carried out in practice can actually vary depending on the circumstances of each individual case.  This is very important, as disciplinary action can become very time consuming and costly if not properly managed and tailored to the needs of the business.

However, if not carried out sufficiently, employers can easily find themselves being ordered to pay thousands in compensation to an employee.

To get practical advice on how to safely navigate the disciplinary process, in a way which is both suitable to your business and appropriate in each circumstance, please contact our team for support.

The information contained within this page is for guidance only and is not to be relied upon as legal advice.  If you require specific legal advice, please contact our team for support.