deciding on disciplinary actions

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 informally by ‘having a quiet word’ as part of 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.

When taking disciplinary action, it is wise to follow best practice and pay attention to the following points:

  • encourage improvement: the main purpose of the disciplinary procedure is to encourage an employee, whose standard of conduct is unsatisfactory, to improve
  • handle promptly: problems dealt with early can often be ‘nipped in the bud’, whereas delay can make things worse
  • gather facts: the manager should find out all the relevant facts promptly, before memory fades; details such as the employee’s current disciplinary record should be taken into account when handling disciplinary matters. In serious disciplinary cases it may be advisable to suspend the employee on full pay while conducting any investigation, especially if the issues relate to gross misconduct
  • liaise with witnesses: if there are witnesses, statements should be obtained from them at the earliest opportunity
  • be firm, fair and consistent: the disciplinary procedure is there to provide a fair and consistent method of dealing with problems of conduct or work performance: maintaining satisfactory standards and discipline requires firmness on the part of the manager.

Always follow your disciplinary procedure – vitally important in all cases of discipline. Employees should always have the opportunity to attend a disciplinary meeting before any decision is made and their point of view should always be considered. They also have the legal right to have a work colleague or trade union representative accompany them during a formal hearing.

Points to remember

  • handle the matter promptly and gather all relevant facts
  • consider suspension with pay while the matter is investigated
  • be objective, fair and consistent
  • consider each case on its own merits and avoid snap decisions made in the heat of the moment
  • we have said it before, but will say it again: always follow your disciplinary procedure
  • keep written records.

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