Everything about managing disciplinary situations and meetings

Disciplinary situations may include conduct i.e. where someone does not follow the rules or behave in an inappropriate way; and / or performance (often called capability) i.e. where an employee is not performing in their job role to the required standard. In all cases there are clear procedures that must be followed, and it is a legal requirement to have a written disciplinary procedure. 
Taking formal disciplinary action can be one of the hardest and most stressful things to have to do. As well as being emotionally draining, it will take time and there are clear procedures that must be followed.  The majority of claims to employment tribunals are still for unfair dismissal and the majority of claims that are lost are because the right procedure was NOT followed.  

Because of the time and procedures involved, many organisations don't address issues. They hope they will go away! This can be even more problematic as matters can escalate, and frustrations grow. It can have an impact on other employees and indeed the whole business! 

There are steps you can take to try to avoid disciplinary situations arising in the first place and strategies to try to resolve any matters informally first (see Avoiding Disciplinary Action).  However, there will be times when this is not possible or appropriate and you will need to follow the disciplinary procedure.  This section provides full guidance and associated letters and documents. 

The guidance and templates in this section will help you to prepare and manage all areas of a disciplinary. 

Frequently asked questions

Yes. You need to be aware of all the facts so that you can make an informed and fair decision. Sometimes investigations will be very quick and just include gathering information (e.g. if someone is continually late for work you need to gather the attendance records/dates when they were late). Other times investigations may be more detailed and may involve having to interview other employees.  Refer to the guidance on investigations for more details and examples.

By law an employee can be accompanied by a colleague from the Company or a trade union representative (regardless of whether you recognise a trade union). 

Under discrimination law, employers must make reasonable adjustments for disabled employees. This might mean allowing someone else to attend, as a reasonable adjustment e.g. a support worker or someone with knowledge of the disability and its effects.

The manager or a senior person should generally conduct a disciplinary meeting.  You should refer to your own disciplinary procedure to see if it stipulates who will conduct meetings.  Some procedures may stipulate that a number of people must hear a disciplinary (a panel) and you should always endeavour to follow your own procedure. Remember that if the employee appeals someone else will need to hear the appeal, so you should make sure another manager or senior person is not involved in the disciplinary hearing, so that they can independently hear any appeal. 

Please see the sample disciplinary procedure and notes on managing disciplinary situations for further guidance. 

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2. Avoiding Disciplinary Action

Taking disciplinary action can be time consuming and stressful (for everyone!). It is much better to avoid such situations arising in the first place and can make for a more positive working environment. Here we look at some strategies to help avoid disciplinary action.

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