For many employees, the past 18 months may well have been spent working from home. As they begin to return to the office, old issues may be raised once more, or businesses may well find that there are new potential disciplinary matters to deal with.
While some disciplinary matters may have been masked by employees working from home, businesses may need to familiarise themselves with the correct way to deal with an employee’s conduct.
Before starting any disciplinary procedure, the employer should first see whether the problem can be resolved in an informal way, for example by privately speaking with the individual and perhaps setting up some training if the issue is related to performance.
Dealing with misconduct such as bullying, inappropriate behaviour inside or outside the office or insubordination can be slightly harder to deal with informally.
Following the correct procedure
If trying to solve the issue informally has not worked and a business does decide to formally start a disciplinary process, they must inform the employee in writing.
Employers must also be sure to give employees enough information to enable them to understand the charges against them and what the potential outcomes might be. The Acas Code of Practice on Disciplinary and Grievance Procedures should be followed as a minimum.
It is really important for businesses to ensure they follow these guidelines and offer a fair process. If a disciplinary case did eventually end up before an employment tribunal, a judge will want to see that a fair process was followed if they are to determine that the sanction was a fair one.
What happens at a disciplinary hearing?
Before any disciplinary hearing takes place, employers should carry out a through and fair investigation into the matter and have evidence ready for the hearing. This will usually involve interviewing the employee. How much investigation needs to be carried out will vary from case to case.
The employee can also bring evidence to the disciplinary hearing. We recommend requiring the employee to provide all written evidence on which they intend to rely in advance of the hearing, in the same way that the employer should provide evidence to the employee in advance. There should be no surprise documents produced at the hearing.
Employees have a legal right to be accompanied by a colleague or trade union representative at any disciplinary hearing.
During the hearing the employer should set out the alleged misconduct and present the case against the employee. Detailed notes should be taken. The employee must also be given a chance to set out their case and ask any questions.
After the hearing, the employer will then make a decision as to the outcome of the hearing. This should not be rushed. The disciplinary chair should take some time to reflect before coming to a decision.
Each workplace should have its own versions of disciplinary outcomes as part of its disciplinary policy.
These can range from dismissal to a warning. The policy will give timeframes for how long any warning will remain ‘live’. The decision should be given to the employee in writing, although some employers may prefer to deliver the news in person first.
The employee needs to also have a right to appeal any decision. The appeal should be heard by a different manager, ideally one who has not been involved in the process to date.
If you have any questions about any aspect of the disciplinary process or putting together a disciplinary policy, please get in touch firstname.lastname@example.org