HR & Employment Law Insights

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Disciplinary/Grievance Procedure Basics

Managing discipline and grievance in the workplace is vital. It shows employees what is acceptable and what is not and allows you to reach resolutions that keep your organising moving forward.

While every organisation will have their own disciplinary and grievance procedures, the same basics underlie any of these processes. In this article, we’ll discuss five of the most constructive principles you can adhere to when you want to make your disciplinary and grievance procedures efficient, meaningful, and effective.

1. Investigate the Underlying Facts of the Issue

Before beginning any disciplinary processes, it’s important that you carry out necessary investigations to establish what happened when it happened, and what policies or other rules the employee has violated.

Sometimes, you may need to meet with the employee before progressing further in the process. In other cases, you may need to speak with other employees or collect physical evidence to establish what happened.

If the potential offence is particularly troublesome, you may want to suspend the employee with pay. You can’t necessarily withhold pay because you haven’t proven any wrongdoing. In any case, this should be kept as brief as possible so you can establish what happened and move forward with the disciplinary process.

2. Inform the Employee of the Issue

If your investigation results in a particular violation or grievance, you should notify the employee in writing. You should provide information as to what happened and the consequences you’re considering to keep the employee informed and updated on what to expect.

The written notice should also contain information regarding when and where the disciplinary hearing will be held.

3. Hold a Meeting to Discuss the Problem

You should hold this meeting as soon as is possible after your investigation and notify the employee. During this meeting, you will:

  • Inform the employee of the complaint made against him or her;
  • Allow the employee to make their case and respond to the allegations; and
  • Allow the employee to ask questions and present witnesses as to what happened

You should always inform each employee of the meeting procedure so they have time to prepare witnesses or organise other information they need.

4. Allow the Employee to be Accompanied During the Meeting

By statute, employees have the right to be accompanied to a disciplinary meeting if the meeting may result in:

  • A formal warning;
  • A disciplinary action; or
  • An appeal hearing or other confirmation hearing

Most companions are fellow workers, trade union representatives, or another official from a trade union. However, your employee must request to a companion to have one present at the meeting. Moreover, they must choose a companion whose presence doesn’t conflict with the topic of dispute.

Companions are allowed to participate in the meeting and speak with your employee. However, they may not answer questions on the employee’s behalf. Establishing strict rules will help the meeting move along efficiently and establish an appropriate resolution.

5. Decide on the Most Appropriate Action

The meeting will determine whether it’s appropriate for you to take additional disciplinary action. If you do decide to take action, you should inform the employee in writing.

Typically, the first course of action for any discipline is a written warning. This is true for most companies when the employee has violated a policy or otherwise committed a wrongdoing for the first time. If the violation is particularly grievous, you may want to issue a final written warning rather than a first warning to deter future bad behaviour.

Some employees are subject to dismissal after their meeting. If this occurs, you must issue a written notice with the reason for dismissal, the date on which it’s effective, and offer appropriate written notice. Employees also have the right to appeal in some instances, and you should detail the process or how employees can do so in the same letter.

Disciplinary Procedures Don’t Have to be Difficult

The disciplinary process is vital but doesn’t have to be as complicated as some organisations make it. The best practices for keeping your program under control is to focus on efficiency, clarity, and fairness. Doing so will allow you to resolve disputes quickly and keep employees on track for the future as well.

If you’re struggling to implement an effective disciplinary procedure in the workplace, The HR Booth can help. We have decades of combined experience in countless HR fields and as such, can structure a procedure that makes sense for your organisation.

Learn more about our services by contacting us on 01383 427325. We look forward to speaking with you and learning how we can best serve your needs.