Further resources (see also our fixed price services if you would prefer us to advise you directly and draft documents for you):

See also our video guides to the disciplinary process

Click here for a selection of disciplinary letters

Click here for a free guide to employment law developments written with smaller business in mind

FREE 2 minute guide to investigating a disciplinary case

FREE 2 minute guide to managing a disciplinary case (short of gross misconduct)

FREE 2 minute guide to managing a gross misconduct case

Disciplinary and Dismissal Policy and Procedure

Disciplinary record

Discipline-related FAQ's

ACAS code of practice on disciplinary matters

All employers should have published disciplinary and grievance procedures, cross referenced by employment contracts and summarised in the employee handbook. Employers are strongly advised to comply with the ACAS code on handling disciplinary cases and dismissals, as non-compliance is likely to attract an uplift to any penalties later imposed by an employment tribunal.

If an employee is to be disciplined for misconduct, or receive a warning for poor performance, they should be given a copy of the disciplinary procedure when being invited to attend the hearing. Under the ACAS code the employee also has a right to call and question witnesses. myhrdept.co.uk subscription holders will find that our policy and procedure is very clear on when this may, and may not be considered appropriate. We have written these caveats to reflect our discomfort with this area of the code, which seems to be steering internal disciplinary procedures into the realms of the court room

In very brief summary and for our purposes here, as a minimum, the disciplinary process should include:

  • A proper investigation of the facts should precede a decision to invoke the formal disciplinary procedure.
  • Notes should be taken of formal meetings held, as close to verbatim as possible and copies supplied to the employee as part of the disciplinary pack.
  • A letter to the employee clearly stating the allegation/concern to be discussed & inviting them to a hearing to discuss the matter. The letter should make plain what the potential outcome could be (e.g. the level of disciplinary warning or whether dismissal is possible), should include a copy of the disciplinary procedure (or refer the employee to where they can easily locate a copy), and should include any information that will be relied upon to support the allegation/concern.
  • If the employee requests a companion to be present (colleague or trade union official) this must be allowed, and the companion must be allowed to participate fully at the hearing, but not answer questions on behalf of the employee.
  • The manager chairing the hearing must make decisions fairly, objectively and consistently having considered all of the evidence and the statements of the employee and their companion.
  • The decision should be summarised in writing, informing the employee of the right of appeal, and when they should lodge an appeal by.
  • The appeal hearing should ideally be heard by a different manager (usually more senior) unconnected with the case. This may not be possible in very small companies.

Typical employment law pitfalls

Poor or no investigation (or no documents to support), procedural flaws in handling the disciplinary process, inconsistent treatment of employees in similar circumstances, unnecessarily harsh sanctions, intimidatory style in disciplinary hearings, failure to allow companion to be present or participate, evidence that the employer has prejudged the outcome of the disciplinary process (e.g. having a pre-prepared warning letter to give to the employee at the end of the hearing), using the disciplinary process as a convenient way of getting rid of an employee for other reasons, failing to allow an appeal etc.

It is important to remember that even if a disciplinary outcome is justified, if there are procedural flaws, this will make the decision automatically unfair. Thus knowing and adhering to your own processes and procedures is of paramount importance.

Help and support

Please contact us immediately you become aware of a potential disciplinary issue. We will conduct a case review with you, advise you of a course of action to follow and (depending on your tariff) prepare appropriate letters and documents for you to use. Under some circumstances & if you require it we may attend hearings with you.

Our 2 minute guides are designed to map out HR processes simply, providing links to the documents you are likely to need. If in doubt please contact us for assistance.

myhrdept can provide a range of outsourced HR support including on-site presence if required. We believe we offer the best combination of quality and price available in the UK. Call us on 01628 820515 to discuss your requirements or email us and we’ll call you.