Even some of the most experienced managers don't think about number 5...!

When an employee misbehaves in some way, you might sometimes need to bring them back onto the right track, or in extreme cases remove them from your employment. The disciplinary process is the correct way to deal with these issues. But however justified you are in taking action, getting it wrong can land you in some very messy - and expensive - trouble.

The worst part is that even when you KNOW you're right, defending yourself in Tribunal can be seriously expensive, even if you win! So your job is not just to make a fair decision, but to make the employee feel the decision was fair. Not quite the same thing.

So here's the top 5 things you absolutely must stick to, as part of a fair process that also keeps you out of tribunal.

  1. The disciplinary process works on the basis of “innocent until proven guilty”, so make sure you don’t go into the process with your mind made up already about what action you want to take. Adjourning the disciplinary meeting and using that time to review the evidence and make your decision is really key.
  2. If what happened is unacceptable enough to warrant disciplinary action, it weakens your case dramatically if you let things go for ages before doing anything. Take action straight away! This is especially the case if what happened was so serious that it could be gross misconduct.
  3. If you are thinking that what happened amounts to Gross Misconduct, you MUST suspend the employee immediately, whilst you carry out the investigation. Gross misconduct means that what the employee was so bad that it fundamentally breached their contract and it’s impossible to continue the working relationship. You can’t make that argument if you’ve let them carry on working after it happened.
  4. At investigation, disciplinary and appeal meetings, always have a note taker and get the notes signed by everyone at the end of the meeting wherever possible. This is your record of what was said and the signature is the evidence that both parties are happy that it’s an accurate record. It prevents the “I never said that, you wrote it but I didn’t say it” scenario.
  5. When you’re writing the disciplinary and appeal decision letters, keep in mind that the reader may well not just be the employee, but if they’re not happy they might take it to a solicitor to see whether they can take you to tribunal. So, the better your letter is at showing how and why you came to a fair decision, the better chance you have of the solicitor saying “sorry, you don’t have a case”. Much better than relying on the employee to give them a balanced view of what happened!


Download Our Free Easy-to-Follow Disciplinary Flowchart

Shows you:
- what decisions to make and when
- what letters you should issue and when
- a complete process map that makes sure you never miss a step

Click here to receive your DISCIPLINARY FLOWCHART

In the interests of not going on and on forever and losing your attention, this isn’t an exhaustive list of everything you need to know to manage disciplinary hearings fairly. But if you keep these principles in mind when you’re going through the process, it’ll steer you along the right path. My strong recommendation though is to take advice on each case as they’re all individual and the weirdness of UK law means that the risks aren’t always blindingly obvious. HR on Tap offers a cost-effective results-focused service for small to medium sized businesses that supports you with disciplinaries, recruitment, reward, performance management… the whole employment cycle, to help you maximise your profits through effective people management. If you’re having HR headaches and would benefit from our expertise on your team, drop us an email at: chantal@hrontap.co.uk or call us on 0345 163 2155.

About Chantal Wellavize

Since setting up HR on Tap in 1998, Chantal has supported businesses with a wide range of HR issues. She has gained a reputation for being pragmatic, results-focused and able to quickly grasp and bring clarity to complex issues.

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