Disciplinary Procedures: Avoid These Common Employer Mistakes - More Than Accountants

Disciplinary Procedures: Avoid These Common Employer Mistakes

Disciplinary Procedures: Avoid These Common Employer Mistakes

Disciplinary procedures are an essential part of managing employees in any organisation. They are designed to ensure that employees are aware of their responsibilities and that they comply with the rules and regulations of the company. However, disciplinary procedures can be fraught with difficulties, and employers often make common mistakes that can lead to legal action being taken against them.

One of the most common mistakes that employers make is not following the correct procedures. Failure to follow the correct procedures can lead to an unfair dismissal claim being made against the employer. In the UK, employment tribunals take the “Acas code of practice on disciplinary and grievance procedures” into account where relevant and may increase an employee’s compensation award by up to 25% where an employer unreasonably fails to follow the code.

Another common mistake that employers make is failing to establish the facts. Employers must carry out a thorough investigation to establish the facts of the case before taking disciplinary action against an employee. Failure to do so can result in an unfair dismissal claim being made against the employer. It is essential to gather all the relevant evidence and interview all the relevant witnesses to establish the facts of the case.

Want to switch to More Than Accountants? You can get an instant quote online by using the form below. In a like for like comparison for services we are up to 70% cheaper than a high street accountant.

Understanding Disciplinary Procedures

Disciplinary procedures are vital for managing employees in all types of organisations, from sole traders to limited companies. They provide a structured approach to handling misconduct and performance issues, ensuring order, fairness, and compliance with legal standards.

The Purpose of Disciplinary Action

The primary purpose of disciplinary action is to address issues of misconduct or capability. Misconduct refers to unacceptable or improper behaviour, such as theft, harassment, or breach of company policy. Capability refers to an employee’s performance or ability to perform their job. Disciplinary action aims to correct these issues and prevent them from recurring in the future.

Key Principles of Fair Disciplinary Processes

Disciplinary procedures must be fair, reasonable, and consistent. Employers must follow the ACAS Code of Practice on Disciplinary and Grievance Procedures, which provides guidance on how to conduct fair disciplinary processes. The code emphasises the importance of natural justice, which requires that employees are given the opportunity to present their case and respond to any allegations made against them.

Some key principles of fair disciplinary processes include:

  • Providing clear and specific reasons for the disciplinary action
  • Conducting a thorough and impartial investigation into the alleged misconduct or capability issue
  • Giving the employee the opportunity to respond to any allegations made against them
  • Providing the employee with a written statement of the disciplinary action taken and the reasons for it
  • Allowing the employee to appeal the decision if they disagree with it

By following these principles, employers can ensure that their disciplinary procedures are fair and legally compliant.

In summary, disciplinary procedures are an essential part of managing employees. They provide a formal process for addressing issues of misconduct and capability. To ensure fairness and legal compliance, employers must follow the ACAS Code of Practice on Disciplinary and Grievance Procedures and adhere to the principles of natural justice.

Common Mistakes Before Disciplinary Proceedings

When it comes to disciplinary proceedings, employers often make mistakes before the proceedings even begin. These mistakes can lead to unnecessary conflict, legal disputes, and a breakdown in employee relations. In this section, we’ll discuss some of the most common mistakes employers make before disciplinary proceedings, and how you can avoid them.

Inadequate Investigation

One of the most common mistakes employers make before disciplinary proceedings is conducting an inadequate investigation. This can lead to a lack of evidence, incomplete information, and a failure to identify all relevant parties. To avoid this mistake, ensure that the investigator assigned to the case is experienced, impartial, and has the necessary skills to conduct a thorough investigation. The investigator should be given access to all relevant information and should be able to interview all relevant parties.

Lack of Clear Disciplinary Policy

Another common mistake employers make before disciplinary proceedings is failing to have a clear disciplinary policy in place. This can lead to confusion, inconsistency, and a lack of transparency. To avoid this mistake, ensure that your disciplinary policy is clear, concise, and easily accessible to all employees. The policy should outline the steps involved in the disciplinary process, the types of behaviour that constitute misconduct, and the potential consequences of misconduct.

Ignoring the ACAS Code of Practice

Employers often make the mistake of ignoring the ACAS Code of Practice on disciplinary and grievance procedures. This can lead to unfair treatment of employees, and can also result in increased compensation awards in the event of an unfair dismissal claim. To avoid this mistake, ensure that you are familiar with the ACAS Code of Practice, and that you follow it at all times. The Code provides guidance on best practice in disciplinary proceedings, including the importance of conducting a fair and impartial investigation, providing clear evidence, and giving employees the opportunity to appeal any decision made.

By avoiding these common mistakes, you can ensure that your disciplinary proceedings are fair, transparent, and effective. Remember to conduct a thorough investigation, have a clear disciplinary policy in place, and follow the ACAS Code of Practice at all times.

Errors During the Disciplinary Hearing

A disciplinary hearing is a formal meeting between an employer or management and an employee to address any potential missteps, be they behavioural or performance-related. It is important that employers follow proper procedures during the disciplinary hearing to avoid any legal issues or negative impact on employee morale. Here are some common mistakes employers make during the disciplinary hearing:

Failing to Provide Proper Notice

One of the most common mistakes made by employers is failing to provide proper notice for the disciplinary hearing. The employee must be given reasonable notice of the hearing and the allegations against them. The notice should include the date, time, and location of the hearing, as well as the allegations against the employee. The notice should also inform the employee of their right to be accompanied by a companion, such as a trade union representative or a colleague.

Insufficient Evidence Consideration

Another common mistake made by employers is insufficient consideration of evidence. Employers should consider all evidence, including witness statements and documentary evidence, before making a decision. Employers should also give the employee an opportunity to respond to the evidence and provide their own evidence if necessary. Failure to consider all evidence can lead to an unfair decision and potential legal issues.

Denial of Accompaniment Rights

Employers must not deny an employee’s right to be accompanied by a companion during the disciplinary hearing. The companion can be a trade union representative or a colleague. The companion can provide support and assistance to the employee during the hearing. Employers must allow the companion to address the hearing and confer with the employee during the hearing.

In conclusion, employers must follow proper procedures during the disciplinary hearing to avoid any legal issues or negative impact on employee morale. Employers should provide proper notice, consider all evidence, and allow the employee to be accompanied by a companion during the hearing.

Post-Hearing Pitfalls

After the disciplinary hearing, there are several post-hearing pitfalls that employers should avoid to ensure the process is fair and effective. These include:

Inadequate Decision Making

One of the most common mistakes employers make is inadequate decision making. It’s essential to make a decision based on the evidence presented during the hearing, and not on any preconceived notions or biases. You must ensure that the decision is fair, reasonable, and proportionate to the misconduct committed.

Neglecting the Right to Appeal

Another common mistake employers make is neglecting the right to appeal. Employees have the right to appeal a disciplinary decision if they feel it’s unfair or unjust. Employers must provide a clear and adequate appeal stage, and the employee must be informed of their right to appeal.

Delays in Dealing with Issues

Employers often fail to deal with issues regarding misconduct early on, leading to delays in dealing with disciplinary issues. It’s crucial to deal with issues as soon as they arise, to avoid them escalating and becoming more complicated. Employers must follow the correct disciplinary process and hold meetings with the employee to discuss the issue.

To ensure that the disciplinary process is fair and effective, it’s essential to avoid these post-hearing pitfalls. By making a fair and reasonable decision based on the evidence presented during the hearing, providing a clear and adequate appeal stage, and dealing with issues promptly, you can ensure that the disciplinary process is effective and that your employees are treated fairly.

Consequences of Improper Dismissal

Improper dismissal can have serious consequences for employers. In this section, we will discuss some of the potential risks and damages that employers may face if they do not follow proper disciplinary procedures.

Facing Unfair Dismissal Claims

If an employee feels that they have been unfairly dismissed, they may choose to bring a claim against their employer. This can lead to time-consuming and costly legal proceedings, as well as damage to the employer’s reputation.

Risks of Wrongful Dismissal Proceedings

Employers who dismiss employees without following proper procedures or without a valid reason may be at risk of wrongful dismissal proceedings. This can result in an award of compensation for the employee, as well as financial and reputational damage for the employer.

Financial and Reputational Damage

Improper dismissal can also lead to financial and reputational damage for employers. In addition to legal fees and compensation awards, employers may face negative publicity and a loss of business due to damage to their reputation.

To avoid these consequences, it is important for employers to follow proper disciplinary procedures and avoid common pitfalls such as failing to establish the facts, relying too heavily on previous warnings, or dismissing an employee without a valid reason or without following proper procedures.

By following best practices and seeking advice when necessary, employers can minimise the risk of facing unfair dismissal claims or wrongful dismissal proceedings, and protect their business from financial and reputational damage.

Legal Framework and Employee Rights

When it comes to disciplinary procedures, there are various legal rights and protections that employees have. As an employer, it is essential to be aware of these rights and ensure that you follow the correct procedures to avoid any legal claims or disputes.

Statutory Rights and Protections

Employees in the UK have statutory rights and protections under the Employment Rights Act 1996. This includes the right not to be unfairly dismissed, the right to a minimum notice period, the right to a written statement of employment particulars, and the right to request flexible working.

Automatically Unfair Grounds for Dismissal

It is important to note that there are certain grounds for dismissal that are automatically unfair. These include dismissal on the basis of pregnancy, trade union membership, or whistleblowing. If an employee is dismissed on these grounds, they may be able to make a claim to an employment tribunal.

Contractual Rights and Tribunal Claims

In addition to statutory rights, employees may also have contractual rights that are set out in their employment contract. If an employer breaches these contractual rights, an employee may be able to make a claim to an employment tribunal for breach of contract.

Failure to adhere to fair procedures during disciplinary actions can lead to claims of unfair dismissal. Employers, especially those managing partnerships and limited liability partnerships, are advised to follow established guidelines, such as those set out by the Labour Relations Agency in Northern Ireland.

In the event of a dispute, an employee may choose to take their case to the county court, high court, or supreme court. They may also seek an injunction to prevent their employer from taking certain actions, such as dismissing them.

As an employer, it is essential to have a clear and fair disciplinary policy in place that complies with both statutory and contractual obligations. This will help to ensure that you follow a fair procedure and avoid any potential legal claims or disputes.

Best Practices for a Robust Disciplinary Procedure

A robust disciplinary procedure is essential for any organisation to maintain standards of conduct and behaviour in the workplace. Here are some best practices that can help you develop a clear and effective disciplinary framework.

Developing a Clear Disciplinary Framework

To ensure consistency and fairness in the disciplinary process, it is important to have a clear disciplinary policy in place. This policy should outline the standards of conduct expected from employees, the disciplinary process that will be followed in case of any breach, and the potential consequences of such a breach. The policy should be communicated to all employees and reviewed periodically to ensure that it is up-to-date and in line with any amendments to employment law.

Training and Support for HR and Managers

HR advisors and managers who are responsible for implementing the disciplinary process should receive adequate training and support to ensure that they are equipped to handle the process fairly and effectively. This includes training on how to conduct investigations, how to prepare investigation reports, how to conduct disciplinary hearings, and how to deliver warnings or formal disciplinary action. This training should be reviewed periodically to ensure that it is up-to-date.

Continuous Review and Improvement

A disciplinary process should be reviewed periodically to ensure that it is effective in maintaining standards of conduct and behaviour in the workplace. This includes reviewing the process for any areas of improvement, such as how investigations are conducted or how disciplinary hearings are handled. It is important to seek feedback from employees who have been through the disciplinary process to identify any areas of concern and to address them promptly.

The disciplinary process should be reserved for serious breaches of duty, ensuring all preliminary steps have been taken, such as issuing warnings and conducting thorough investigations. For those in complex business structures like contractors or businesses using Xero accounting software, maintaining rigorous bookkeeping and management reports can aid in providing transparency and fairness in disciplinary proceedings. Failure to follow the correct procedures can result in claims of unfair dismissal, as demonstrated in the case of Chhabra v West London Mental Health NHS Trust.

If you do decide to dismiss an employee for misconduct, you must ensure that you have reasonable grounds for doing so and that you have followed the correct procedures. This includes providing the employee with notice pay and following your duty of confidentiality. By following these best practices, you can ensure that your disciplinary process is fair, consistent, and effective in maintaining standards of conduct and behaviour in the workplace.

Previous Comparing National, Real, and Minimum Wages: Key Differences
Next Fixed Term Contracts: Understanding Their Duration and Termination
Table of Contents