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Knowledge Hub | Articles

05 July 2017

Discipline and dismissal: do’s and don’ts for employers

From April this year, employers could face paying up to £80,541 for one unfair dismissal claim. Hannah King, employment associate, offers practical advice for any business faced with this potentially costly, morale denting, time consuming issue.

Be prepared

  • Do create and share your employment handbook with all new employees so they are completely clear on company policies and what constitutes workplace misconduct and so your managers know the correct procedure to follow.
  • Do remember that an employee needs to be working at least two years at your company before disciplinary action needs to be taken. If not, they can usually be dismissed immediately.
  • Do read the ACAS code which is intended to help employers and employees deal effectively with misconduct and poor performance and sets out the steps to be followed.  If the employer or employee unreasonably fails to follow the ACAS code, compensation can be increased or reduced by up to 25 per cent.

Serious offences

  • Do carry out a reasonable investigation, which will usually involve interviewing the employee and other witnesses and collecting any documentary evidence.  Consider whether you need to suspend the employee to allow a full investigation to take place.
  • Don’t take disciplinary action after an investigatory meeting alone; there should always be a disciplinary hearing first. 
  • Do inform the employee in writing of the case against them, what the possible consequences will be (for example it could be a final written warning or a dismissal) and give copies of any evidence, such as statements made by witnesses, so that they can prepare properly for the hearing. 
  • Do include in the letter the date, time and location of the hearing and explain that the employee has the right to be accompanied by a colleague or a trade union representative.   Make sure you allow the employee sufficient time to prepare for the hearing. 
  • Don’t allow the person who carried out the investigation to conduct the hearing except in very rare circumstances.  A second person should attend on behalf of the company to take notes and act as a witness.
  • Do explain the allegations and go through the evidence with the employee at the hearing. 
  • Do allow the employee an opportunity to ask questions, present evidence and call witnesses. If new evidence comes to light during the hearing, you should consider adjourning the hearing to you carry out further investigations.
  • Do write to tell the employee your decision and the reasons for it.   You should remember to take into account any active disciplinary warnings, any mitigating factors and the employee's length of service if relevant when reaching your decision.
  • Do highlight the employee’s right to appeal, the deadline and the process they should following, including asking the employee to set out their grounds of appeal.
  • Do hold the appeal hearing as soon as possible. It should be conducted by a manager who has not already been involved in the matter and who is ideally more senior than the disciplining manager.  They can overturn the original decision if they disagree with it.
  • Do consider other alternatives such as demotion, redeployment or a final written warning if appropriate. 

Minor offences

Not all offences will warrant taking formal action under your disciplinary procedure.  For minor offences, such as poor timekeeping, it will often be better to speak to the employee informally and determine if there are valid personal reasons for these offences and if there is a way which you can help without being detrimental to the business.  However, if there is no improvement then matters will reach the stage where a formal process should be commenced. 

Our team can provide training if you need advice on drafting your company's employment policy or on how to deal with disciplinary or performance matters. To speak with the team about the training or any of the issues above, call 01753 279029 or email employmentlaw@bpcollins.co.uk.

Stay in touch

Phone: +44 (0) 1753 889995

Email: enquiries@bpcollins.co.uk

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