Handling disciplinary procedures: a responsible business owner's guide

There aren’t many aspects to being a boss that are more unpleasant than handling disciplinary procedures.

For any ambitious employer wanting to maintain focus on business success and sustainable growth, the idea of managing staff disciplinaries is not only an unwanted distraction but also has the potential to cause staff unrest and damage team morale.

Nevertheless, putting in place adequate procedures and regulations relating to disciplinary issues and grievances is essential to being a responsible employer and avoiding tribunal claims. It is important to consult a trained legal service provider who can both help you to comply with UK legislation but also tailor employment contracts and codes of conduct to your business needs.

What should be included in disciplinary procedures?
Disciplinary procedures must clearly outline how employees will be treated in the event of a problem in the workplace. The emphasis is typically on fairness and reasonableness, regardless of the size of an organisation. A few key points to remember are:

  • Employers are duty-bound to ascertain the facts before taking any disciplinary action
  • Should grounds for action be found, an employee must be given details of the allegations they face
  • The employee should be notified in writing of the potential consequences of the disciplinary procedures and allocated a time and place for an initial hearing
  • Any evidence should be provided to the employee

After an initial hearing, it is the employer’s responsibility to decide if disciplinary action is required and the extent of such actions – be it a warning, final warning or dismissal. In the event that an employee is reprimanded or otherwise punished, the employee retains the right to an appeal against the decision.

In minor disciplinary cases, an employee may wish to request a respected colleague or union representative to accompany them to meetings and hearings. In more serious cases, however, legal representation may be required.

While it is not possible to anticipate every form of misdemeanor, your legal service provider may encourage you to set out examples of the type of conduct that warrants disciplinary action – such as repeated absenteeism, unprofessional personal appearance, negligence, theft, fraud or a disregard for health and safety regulations.

Your legal expert will also encourage you to clearly state what actions can be taken and by whom within the business. Those members of the management team given responsibility for handling disciplinary matters should also be trained appropriately and given guidelines to ensure that they are acting within the company’s best interests and within the law at all times. These guidelines should include instructions regarding informal discussions for minor offences and the appropriate steps to be taken in more serious cases.

When action is taken, managers must act consistently and fairly, regardless of the staff member in question.

If you are a business owner in need of legal support to establish appropriate disciplinary procedures, simply answer a few short questions and start comparing legal experts now.


Steve Clark

Steve creates helpful guides for The Law Superstore. He enjoys digging deep into new areas of the law, supporting partners, and translating legalese and jargon into plain English everyone can understand.