What is unacceptable behaviour or misconduct?
Unacceptable behaviour can take different forms and can vary in seriousness.
There may be an issue with your employee’s conduct at work towards colleagues or managers, or it may be that your employee is unreasonably refusing to do what is asked of them. It’s worth keeping in mind that before starting a formal procedure, many issues of misconduct can be dealt with informally.
Misconduct can include refusing to do work, consistent absence without permission (“AWOL”), bullying and harassment.
There are also times when an employee’s conduct is substantially serious that it amounts to gross misconduct or negligence and may warrant dismissal, following investigation.
Some examples of gross misconduct include fraud, violence, gross negligence and unlawful behaviour such as theft.
Key steps in a disciplinary procedure
A disciplinary procedure is a formal way of dealing with discipline or misconduct issues. ‘Disciplinary issues’ are usually mentioned in the employee handbook or in the employment contract and relate to an employee’s conduct or performance.
A clear policy and procedure can help to keep you on the right side of UK employment law and should you need to dismiss an employee because of a disciplinary issue, a clear procedure should prevent unfair dismissal cases being brought at employment tribunal.
We’ve set out below the basic process – it looks and sounds simple and you may be tempted to skip some of the steps but it’s really important to follow all the steps to carry out a fair procedure and avoid any complaints or even worse an employment tribunal.
- A disciplinary investigation
- An initial disciplinary letter
- A formal meeting to discuss the issue (the disciplinary hearing)
- A disciplinary decision
- A chance to appeal the decision
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How to conduct an investigation
It’s best practice to assign another manager who is in no way connected to the issue to carry out the investigation – we call them the disciplinary manager.
You should let your employee know that you’ve opened an investigation against them.
When conducting the investigation, you should gather as much information as you can – that can include interviewing others and taking a statement or requesting to view emails.
Your investigation should aim to identify if there’s a case, gather details to use as evidence during the procedure and help you decide if any further action is needed.
If there’s enough evidence, you should invite your employee to the formal meeting and move onto the next stage of the procedure.
Short on time or lacking confidence? We can conduct investigations for you, or on your behalf.
The disciplinary hearing
The ideal scenario for conducting a hearing is to do it somewhere private, away from other employees.
During the hearing you need to:
- Explain the complaint
- Share the evidence collected during the investigation
- Give your employee a chance to share their side of the story
- Decide on the disciplinary action you’re going to take – this could be no further action, a written warning, a final warning or demotion or dismissal
Every employee has the right to appeal the decision of the hearing. If this is the case, you’ll need to conduct another investigation and consider the case again – this usually would be escalated to a more senior member than the manager who carried out the initial investigation, which may not always be possible in a smaller business.
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