Thursday, 16 November 2023 22:04

A Rise in Disciplinaries

Apart from it’s main function as a search engine, Google has some pretty useful tools for marketing purposes, such as it’s key word planner which helps to find search phrases for online adverts. It turns out that the key word planner can also give us an insight into what’s trending in HR the workplace across the country.

For instance, the average number of searches for the word “disciplinary” in the UK over the last year is over 12,000, per month. The term “disciplinary procedure” has seen an increase of 24% in the number of times it’s been searched for.

We can only assume the increase in searches is owing to a rise in the number of first-time disciplinaries that are being held. That is, disciplinaries being held by people who have not had to hold one before. Perhaps this is because a disciplinary event hasn’t occurred before or because they have been promoted to a position in which they are now responsible for disciplinaries.

It’s a little concerning that individuals have to resort to searching for information regarding disciplinary procedures. It potentially means that businesses aren’t fulfilling their obligations as employers.

By law, an organisations disciplinary and grievance policy must be readily available for scrutiny by any employee and should ordinarily reside within the staff handbook. The grievance procedure should be clear and unambiguous and plainly state the various levels of disciplinary action. These are usually verbal warning through to dismissal, depending on the severity of the transgression.

If so many people are searching for information about disciplinary procedures, does this mean that they don’t have their policies in place?

When the need arises to take an employee through the disciplinary process, it pays to have your ducks lined up and to have a clear idea of the process you will be following. There are numerous examples of where dismissal decisions are overturned at tribunal because the employer failed to follow the correct process; even when the employee’s wrongdoing was unquestionable, and the case should have been nailed on.

At the outset, all disciplinary matters should undergo a fair investigation, and this would normally be carried out by a line manager. The investigation should gather all relevant evidence and interviews should be held with all involved parties and with anyone who is able to provide evidence for the case. This could be a large number of employees, if they are witnesses for example, or it might just be the individual who is the subject of the disciplinary matter.

With more people working from home these days, it’s acceptable to hold investigation interviews over Zoom or Teams.

For an investigation meeting, there may not be a right to be accompanied, unless your policy states otherwise. Even then, the accompanying person should be a work colleague or an appointed official of a recognised Trade Union.

Once your investigation is concluded, you need to relay your findings to the subject of the investigation. If it looks like some form of discipline will be appropriate, you should write and invite the subject to a disciplinary meeting. You must give reasonable notice of a disciplinary meeting and we recommend at least 48 hours. You should also provide a copy of all your evidence.

Representation during the disciplinary meeting should be offered. If the employee chooses not to be represented, make sure they are aware of their right to be accompanied, and have this minuted. Put your findings forward and give the subject opportunity to respond. Adjourn the meeting to consider the final outcome.

Once you have deliberated, invite the subject back into the meeting to give them your decision and what form of discipline you are administering. This could be various levels of warning and up to dismissal depending on the severity of the wrongdoing. You must treat employees equally so be clear that you would give any employee the same punishment if they had been found guilty of the same.

Employees have a right to appeal any disciplinary decision, and this should be heard in a timely manner and by someone of at least equal status to the original case handler.

Because of the difficult conversations that are usually involved, it’s easy to see why disciplinary and procedures are often carried out poorly, consequently becoming costly. However, you should apply rigour in all policies, procedures and processes.

It can be very tempting, and all too easy, to err towards taking a relaxed approach when an incident arises that requires some form of disciplinary action. There are times when keeping a situation informal can be the right approach. It saves time and, as colleagues still need to work with one another, can keep a lid on conflict in the workplace.

However, the main problem with informality however is that there is rarely proper closure to a matter. We would recommend that only experienced managers who have a good understanding of their team members try to handle issues informally.

Whilst taking the formal route will be a lot more time consuming, handled properly it will put an issue to bed. Formality also means notes and records are kept so that if a situation ever escalates, there is a documented audit trail to refer to.

You'll be pleased to know that we’re here to help, assist with, attend at, and carry out disciplinary procedures and grievance hearings for clients and customers. If you require some support call us on 01452 331331 or e-mail This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


Read 280 times Last modified on Thursday, 16 November 2023 22:07


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