Law guide: Employment

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Discipline and dismissal

Discipline and dismissal

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Contents

Overview

These sections will show you how to discipline your employees if their performance or conduct isn't up to the expected standard.

Disciplinary procedure

Disciplinary situations include misconduct and/or poor performance.

Employers and employees should always seek to resolve disciplinary issues in the workplace. Where this is not possible employers and employees should consider using an independent third party to help resolve the problem. The third party need not come from outside the organisation but could be an internal mediator, so long as they are not involved in the disciplinary issue. In some cases, an external mediator might be appropriate.

Many potential disciplinary issues can be resolved informally. A quiet word is often all that is required to resolve an issue. However, where an issue cannot be resolved informally then it may be pursued formally. In doing so, basic principles of fairness should be applied.

Fairness and transparency are promoted by developing and using rules and procedures for handling disciplinary and grievance situations. These should be set down in writing, be specific and clear. Employees and, where appropriate, their representatives should be involved in the development of rules and procedures. It is also important to help employees and managers understand what the rules and procedures are, where they can be found and how they are to be used.

Where some form of formal action is needed, what action is reasonable or justified will depend on all the circumstances of the particular case, but whenever a disciplinary process is being followed it is important to deal with issues fairly. There are a number of elements to this:

  • Employers and employees should raise and deal with issues promptly and should not unreasonably delay meetings, decisions or confirmation of those decisions.
  • Employers and employees should act consistently.
  • Employers should carry out any necessary investigations, to establish the facts of the case.
  • Employers should inform employees of the basis of the problem and give them an opportunity to put their case in response before any decisions are made.
  • Employers should allow employees to be accompanied at any formal disciplinary meeting.
  • Employers should allow an employee to appeal against any formal decision made.

Dismissal

The law gives most employees the right not to be unfairly dismissed. You must be able to show, not only that you had good reason to dismiss your employee, but also that you acted fairly in the way in which you handled the dismissal.