Law guide: Employment

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Which disciplinary and dismissal procedures must I follow?

Which disciplinary and dismissal procedures must I follow?

Contents

The statutory dismissal and disciplinary procedures (Northern Ireland only)

There are two statutory dismissal and disciplinary procedures (SDDPs) - standard and modified. In most cases, where these procedures still apply, you should follow the standard one. In Northern Ireland, you can obtain the current disciplinary procedures from the Labour Relations Agency (NI) website, which has a code of practice for you to follow based on the statutory procedures. Note that the code of conduct can be used as an aid but it does not replace the statutory procedures.

The standard SDDP

The standard SDDP has three stages:

  • Inform the employee in writing why you are contemplating dismissing or taking disciplinary action against them and invite them to a meeting, giving them sufficient time to prepare. Provide copies to the employee and/or their companion of any evidence that may be used at that meeting.
  • Hold the meeting with the employee. Inform the employee of any decision made after the meeting and notify them of their right to appeal.
  • If the employee wishes to appeal against the disciplinary action that has been decided upon, you must invite the employee to a further meeting.

The employee has the right to be accompanied at both meetings by a colleague or union representative.

The modified SDDP

The modified SDDP only applies in very rare cases of gross misconduct where you feel you are justified in dismissing immediately without notice or pay in lieu of notice.

The procedure has two stages:

  • Written statement - the employer must give the employee a written statement setting out the conduct that has resulted in the dismissal and informing the employee of the right to appeal against the decision to dismiss.
  • Appeal meeting - if the employee wishes to appeal they must inform the employer. A meeting must be held. The employer must inform the employee of their decision following the meeting.

The employee has the right to be accompanied at the meeting by a colleague or union representative.

Sanction for failing to comply with SDDP

If you fail to follow the appropriate SDDP and the employee subsequently brings a claim before an employment tribunal and is successful, their compensation can be increased by up to 50%.

Dismissal and disciplinary procedures (England, Wales and Scotland)

Fair and reasonable procedure

When you are dealing with a disciplinary issue or dismissal you still have to follow a fair and reasonable procedure.

You will be expected to follow the good-practice advice set out in the revised Acas code of practice on disciplinary and grievance procedures. If you unreasonably fail to do so and the issue ends up at an employment tribunal, the tribunal could increase the employee's compensation by up to 25%.

You can read the Acas discipline and grievance code of practice and the guidance that accompanies the code on the Acas website.

Acas

As well as having a revised code of practice, Acas provides a free 'Early Conciliation' service. This is a free service designed to resolve workplace disputes. If you have a problem with your employee that you can't resolve and the employee is considering lodging the claim at an Employment Tribunal, Acas must first offer the EC scheme.

For more details, see the section 'Before making a claim' under Employment Tribunal. You can also see the Acas website.

Do I need to change my procedures?

If you already have disciplinary and dismissal procedures which comply with the statutory requirements then there is no need to update your procedures. The Acas Code largely follows the statutory procedure, although there is a decreased emphasis on time limits and an increased emphasis on trying to settle disputes informally.

Note, however, that in gross misconduct cases, the Acas Code of Practice indicates that a fair disciplinary procedure should always be followed before taking any decision to dismiss without notice. As such, continued use of the modified statutory procedure in Northern Ireland is not, therefore, recommended.

Contractual procedures

If you have a contractual procedure that provides rights above and beyond a fair and reasonable procedure as advised by Acas, you must follow it in its entirety. Where no such contractual procedures exist, you must follow a fair and reasonable procedure as set out in the Acas Code of Practice.