Jun 22

Policy Spotlight: Disciplinary Policies

We get it, HR policies are quite dry subject matter. We don’t often hear our clients excited to add another policy to their collection or telling us how a policy has helped them reach their profit target this year. But boring things are still important!

Our Policy Spotlight series will take you through some of the key HR policies, shining a light on what they’re for, and why you might need them. Having the right policies in place can:

  1. Make sure you’re complying with employment law.
  2. Provide you with some protection from employee claims.
  3. Help your employees understand what is and isn’t accepted in your business in terms of conduct (their own or others), performance and the company’s stance in key areas.
  4. Enable your employees to find information themselves, saving their managers time.

Here at HR Overload, we help our clients understand what policies they do and don’t need in their business, write bespoke policies or amend what’s in place and give you the tools to implement these with your teams. If you think yours need some attention get in touch,  020 8588 9494 or send us a note via our website.

What is a disciplinary policy?

A disciplinary policy is put in place to set out what a company will do in the event that there are concerns with an employee’s conduct. Disciplinary policies can also cover capability, but we generally recommend this area is dealt with in a separate policy.

If an employee’s conduct is not appropriate at work, or they commit a specific act of misconduct then in less serious circumstances we recommend that employers try to deal with issues informally through conversation, feedback and setting clear expectations. In more serious circumstances, or in cases where informal methods have been unsuccessful, a formal process is needed.

Under UK legislation, employers must set out their disciplinary procedure and have this easily accessible to all employees. It must cover what is acceptable and unacceptable behaviour in the workplace and what action you will take if the rules are broken.

Usually, a disciplinary policy will include a non-exhaustive list of the behaviours or actions it considers unacceptable conduct at work. It can also cover misconduct that occurs outside of work if it has an impact on work such as negative effects on the company’s reputation. These are usually split into misconduct and gross misconduct (which means very serious misconduct). Examples of misconduct that might be included are:

  • Minor breaches of company policy
  • Being careless when carrying out your duties
  • Wasting time during your contracted working hours
  • Poor attendance and timekeeping

Some examples of gross misconduct might be:

  • Serious health and safety breaches
  • Bullying, harassment or physical violence
  • Fraud and/or theft
  • Being under the influence of illegal drugs or alcohol at work

Disciplinary procedures should follow the ACAS Code of Practice: Disciplinary and Grievance Procedures and should include:

  • A thorough and impartial investigation to determine if there is a disciplinary case to answer.
  • The option to suspend an employee (on full pay) during investigation if appropriate.
  • The procedure for the disciplinary hearing. Employees must be invited to the disciplinary hearing in writing and there are minimum notice requirements to allow an employee ample time to prepare their case. They should be provided with details of the allegation(s) and copies of information from the investigation. This meeting should be held by an impartial, senior employee, preferably one who had no part in the investigation, and the employee is entitled to be accompanied at meetings by a colleague or trade union representative. It is advisable to make a record of this meeting.
  • Time scales for each stage of the process – these should be as short as possible.
  • The potential outcomes of the disciplinary hearing – this could include first or final written warnings, or dismissal with or without notice. It’s important to be clear that the outcome of a disciplinary will only be determined after a full and fair hearing.
  • The appeals process.

Why do I need a disciplinary policy?

In order to comply with legislation, you must have a disciplinary policy in place, and we always recommend that this follows the ACAS code of practice. An employment tribunal can increase any money awarded to an employee by 25% if the employer hasn’t followed this.

Having a clear procedure for dealing with misconduct, and a clear statement about the types of behaviours which are misconduct in your workplace makes a clear statement to employees. A policy also enables you to set out informal ways of resolving conduct issues for your managers, and a formal procedure that is fair and can be applied consistently to all employees.

Dealing with misconduct quickly and fairly can protect your business from legal claims and harm. It also protects other employees and employers have a duty of care to ensure that the workplace is a safe environment, not just in terms of physical health but also in terms of protection from bullying and harassment.

Having a policy in place (and following it) doesn’t guarantee that you won’t find yourself dealing with a tribunal, but it does put a business in a much better place to defend the decision made in a disciplinary hearing, particularly if the decision has been made to dismiss an employee.

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