For too many employers, taking disciplinary action is a last resort, something that is avoided until the need becomes so severe. In practice, disciplinary matters will be arising in the workplace regularly, and employers need to deal with them confidently & promptly. In most cases, the action necessary will be little more than a quiet word to encourage improvements in the employee, but by taking firm, clear, reasonable action in a timely manner, employers will maintain control and be ready to escalate the disciplinary matter when the need arises.
It should be remembered that the main function of a disciplinary process is not to sanction or penalise the employee, but to identify failings and address these, expecting to see improvement in the conduct and/or performance. Therefore, neither employers nor employees should be concerned about a disciplinary process in appropriate circumstances.
Advantages of Using a Good Disciplinary Policy
- Clearly established guidelines for the conduct, behaviour, and performance of employees
- Help protect the employer against claims of wrongful or unfair dismissal
- Improvements in morale among all employees, where equal, fair, and proportionate treatment is applied.
When to Follow a Disciplinary Policy
Employers should take action in accordance with their disciplinary policy for all events that arise, no matter how big or small: from the employee caught spending five minutes updating a social networking page, to the employee holding conversations about the latest developments in their favourite soap while getting a coffee, to the employee caught stealing company property, or the employee attending work under the influence of intoxicating substances; each case warrants disciplinary action, while the action taken should be proportionate to the circumstances, aimed at improving the conduct of all staff in your employment.
By acting in accordance with the disciplinary procedures in all cases, no matter how small, employers will quickly become more comfortable with them, and employees will learn to expect this response – which will often not be particularly difficult for them to cope with.
For assistance on disciplinary procedures, to get your policies reviewed, or to request a policy for your employment, contact Employment Law Clinic: