creating a disciplinary and grievance procedure

A good, well-communicated procedure gives managers guidelines for what to do when things go wrong. The vast majority of workplace issues can and should be dealt with during day-to-day management. It is only when this fails to resolve the problem that it’s necessary to turn to a policy or formal procedure.

Disciplinary action is taken when an employee has failed to meet the minimum level of expected conduct. This can range from performance to personal appearance. Expectations and procedures should be set out clearly for all employees – usually in the form of an employee handbook and during orientation or induction.

When drawing up a disciplinary policy, ensure it complies with anti-discrimination and work health and safety legislation.

For managers, the disciplinary and grievance procedure should answer questions such as:

  • what to do if an employee produces such poor work it affects the whole department/company, regardless of the training and coaching they are given
  • what to do if someone is constantly absent due to sickness
  • what to do if someone is always late without good reason 
  • how to encourage employees to resolve issues

For employees, it should clearly set out the necessary steps to take if they face disciplinary action, or have a grievance

Other considerations include:

  • how is gross misconduct defined within the organisation, for example theft, fraud, fighting, using company computers to access inappropriate websites
  • how to ensure the rules are fair and clearly understood (write in plain English) by all employees
  • how disciplinary policies are integrated across different areas – e.g. health and safety and general workplace – into one concise policy

a disciplinary policy may be used in evidence

A disciplinary policy may be used by the Fair Work Commission (FWC) as evidence to show how a company views a particular activity or issue. If any action taken by the employer is contrary to the written policies of the company, or if the procedures have not been followed at all, any employee dismissal could be viewed as unfair, resulting in an unfavourable decision by the FWC.

writing a disciplinary policy

Stage 1 – identify behaviours that might lead to disciplinary procedures, for example:

  • health and safety breaches
  • performance
  • absence
  • personal appearance
  • use of company equipment
  • time keeping
  • smoking on or near the premises
  • consumption of drugs and alcohol
  • discrimination, bullying and harassment
  • inappropriate use of social media in the workplace.

Stage 2 – identify examples of behaviours you don’t want and rank them according to seriousness.

Stage 3 – identify the types of disciplinary actions you might take, for example:

  • word from line manager (most common)
  • formal meeting
  • official warning
  • final warning
  • dismissal (rare, only in cases of gross misconduct or after all other stages are exhausted).

Stage 4 – match the action to the seriousness of the behaviour:

  • make sure there is no ambiguity and it answers any questions that managers may have.

Stage 5 – write it in plain English and make it easily available:

  • let employees know where they can find it – making it part of the employee handbook is a good idea
  • provide the name of the person (or persons, depending on the size of the organisation) they can appeal to.

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