Difficulties relating to performance or conduct may arise at various points in the employment relationship, and disciplinary procedures are there to ensure that these challenges are dealt with fairly, consistently, and effectively. The employer’s disciplinary procedures should be fair, equitable, clear and should be drafted in adherence to the principles of natural justice.
The Code of Practice on Grievance and Disciplinary Procedures provides guidelines for the procedure and outlines best practice in the management of disciplinary issues. The code clearly states the importance of fair and consistent procedures.
When to Use Disciplinary Procedures:
If an employee does not meet the required standard of performance or behaviour, employers may need to consider the path of discipline. It is important to know and understand your organisation’s disciplinary procedure thoroughly so you can use the same should all other means of assisting the employee to perform to the standards required have not been successful.
It is best practice to deal with performance and behavioural issues at an early stage and, if possible, by means of informal counselling. Where there is an incident of minor misconduct, or a minor reduction in satisfactory performance, you may, in the first instance, discuss it with the team member and give guidance on how to improve. This will ensure the employee is aware of the need for improvement going forward and put on notice that their failure to improve may result in disciplinary action up to and including dismissal as per the company disciplinary procedures. A written follow up should also be sent to the employee so there is full clarity as to what is expected. If performance or conduct has not been sufficiently improved within a specific time frame, then the formal disciplinary procedure may be invoked.
In the event of a further breach of conduct, poor attendance or lapse in performance, or indeed a more serious incident, the employee will be given a written notice of an investigation.
A formal investigation should always take place prior to any sanction being issued. There should be a separation of process to include the Investigation Manager, the Disciplinary Manager and the Appeal Manager.
All disciplinary investigations should comply with the principles of natural justice and fair procedures which are listed below as follows:
- the employee must be presented with the case (allegations) against them;
- the employee must be given the opportunity to avail of the right to be represented;
- the employee concerned must be given the opportunity to respond fully to any such allegations or complaints;
- the employee concerned has the right to a fair and impartial procedure and determination of the issues concerned;
- the employee must be given the right to appeal the employer’s decision.
Sanctions following a disciplinary hearing can generally include the following stages:
An employee whose performance, conduct or attitude becomes unsatisfactory will normally be given a verbal warning in the first instance.
In the event of further breach of conduct, poor performance or attitude, the employee will normally be issued with a formal written warning.
Final Written Warning:
In the event of further breach of conduct, poor performance or attitude, the employee will normally be issued with a final written warning.
Demotion (if applicable), Suspension or Dismissal
In the event of further breach of conduct, poor performance or attitude, the employee may be suspended or dismissed, as deemed appropriate by the employer at the disciplinary stage.
All warnings should be issued to the employee in writing and recorded on the employee’s personnel file for a period of time set by the employer in the company policy.
The formal disciplinary procedure may also have to be invoked in cases of gross misconduct. If the employee, following full disciplinary process, is found guilty of serious misconduct, they may be given a final warning, demoted, suspended from duty without pay or dismissed from employment. The contract of employment should detail the principle matters of serious misconduct for reference.
In line with the principles of natural justice and fair procedures, the employee will also be given the right to appeal against any disciplinary action taken against them. They must appeal in writing and within a certain amount of working days which will be set out in the procedure. The appeal meeting will be conducted by the Appeal Manager.
Disciplinary Procedure Conclusion:
It is recommended any decision to invoke disciplinary procedures is taken carefully, especially it relates to matter than may lead to employee’s dismissal. It also vitally is important for employers to be sure that any decision to dismiss an employee should be reasonable. The employer should follow the Code of Practice on Grievance and Disciplinary Procedures before any dismissal and demonstrate fairness overall, for example by complying with internal procedures, treating employees consistently and carrying out a full, comprehensive, and impartial investigation.
In accordance with the Code of Practice on Grievance and Disciplinary Procedures, every employer must have a disciplinary process in place. The Disciplinary Procedures should be issued to employees in writing and presented in language that is easily understood. A copy of the procedures should be provided to all employees when they start work and be included in employee induction and refresher training.
This article was written by Sharon Sweeney, HR Consultant at Action HR Services.
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The information in this article is provided as part of the Action HR Services Blog. Specific queries should be directed to a member of the Action HR Services Team and it is recommended that professional advice is obtained before relying on information supplied anywhere within this article. This article is correct on 8th January 2024.