Disciplinary Policy and Procedure

Disciplinary policy and procedure
It is the policy of the company that all employees should achieve and maintain agreed
standards of conduct, attendance and performance and that everything within reason
will be done to help all employees achieve these standards. If these standards are not
achieved and disciplinary action has to be taken against employees it should:
Be undertaken only in cases where good reason and clear evidence exist;
Be appropriate to the nature of the offence that has been committed;
Be demonstrably fair and consistent with previous action in similar circumstances;
Take place only when employees are aware of the standards that are expected of
them or the rules with which they are required to conform;
Allow employees the right to be accompanied by a representative or colleague of
their choice during any formal proceedings;
Allow employees the right to know exactly what charges are being made against
them and to respond to those charges.
Allow employees the right of appeal against any disciplinary action through the
Personal Grievance procedure under the Employment Relations Act 2000. (Internal
appeal system?)
The disciplinary process has as its main aim the improvement of an employee’s conduct,
attendance and performance. To ensure that this is the driving force, the first problem
(if it is of a minor misconduct) will be dealt with informally and will not be seen as part
of the disciplinary procedure, but merely an acknowledgement by the organisation to
the employee that the standards are not being achieved. The employee will be
informed that if the problem re-occurs that the disciplinary procedure will be invoked.
This informal discussion will only take place for very minor problems. Problems that are
more serious will be treated immediately through the disciplinary process.
The company is responsible for ensuring that up-to-date rules are agreed between the
company and the employees, and when agreed are published and available to all
The following are general statements of expected behaviour;
1. The employee will behave at all times in a way that does not bring the employer
or any other employee into disrepute.
2. All employees will perform at or above the standards set out in their Job
3. The employee will immediately inform the employer of any potential conflict of
4. Employees will be available for work at the required time and will (apart from
illness) be willing and able to carry out their duties during the time they are at
5. Employees will not without express permission from the employer carry out any
work for them selves or any one else in the employer’s premises and will not use
the employer’s equipment for any other reason than those connected with the
job they are employed to do.
6. Employees will respect the confidentiality of the employer at all times. Any
information gained through their employment will not be disclosed to a third
7. Employees will obey the Health and Safety rules at all times, and will immediately
inform the employer if any one else is in breach of these rules.
Any breach of the above rules will be handled through the discipline process. A breach
of any rule will be treated as;
1. Minor misconduct
2. Misconduct
3. Serious misconduct.
What follows are examples each level of misconduct. THESE LISTS ARE NOT
Minor misconduct:
Minor problems with performance (mistakes that don’t cost any money)
Behaviour that is rude to managers or work colleagues.
More than two (2) examples of any of the above
Mistakes that are serious and cost up to $250.00 to rectify
Behaviour that is rude to customers
Behaviour or performance that is unacceptable but is not so serious that the
employer would want to end the relationship.
Serious misconduct
More than two (2) examples of any of the above
Mistakes that are serious and cost more than $250.00 to rectify
Behaviour or performance that is so serious that the employer would want to
end the relationship
Examples of such behaviour are:
Physical assault
Intentional damage misuse and/or dangerous of vehicles and/or
Possession of drugs (other than prescribed drugs)
Consumption of drugs (other than prescribed drugs) or alcohol
during the hours of work
Reporting for work under the influence of drugs or alcohol that in the
opinion of the manager leaves the employee impaired to perform
their duties. If the drugs are prescribed then no disciplinary action will
be taken, but the employee will be sent home.
Falsification of records
Breaking any Health and Safety rules.
Unauthorised removal of any property of the employer or any other
Any other form of dishonesty or criminal damage in connection with
company property, or the property of any other employee
Any other behaviour which is considered as serious as any of the
The procedure is carried out in the following stages:
Formal Verbal warning. A verbal formal warning is given to the employee in the
first instance of (minor) misconduct (following the informal discussion). The
warning is administered by the employee’s immediate manager it states the exact
nature of the offence, and indicates what if any future disciplinary action will be
taken against the employee if another offence occurs within a specified time limit.
A record of the verbal warning will be placed on the employee’s personnel file and
will remain on file for 6 months, after which time it will be physically removed and
Formal Written Warning. A written formal warning is given to the employee in the
first instance of more serious offences (mis-conduct) or after more than one
instance of minor misconduct. The warning is administered by the employee’s
immediate manager, it states the exact nature of the offence, and indicates what if
any future disciplinary action will be taken against the employee if another offence
occurs within a specified time limit. A copy of the written warning is placed in the
employee’s personnel record file but is destroyed 12 months after the date on
which it was given, if the intervening service has been satisfactory. The employee
is required to read and sign the formal warning.
Final Written Warning. A final written warning is given to the employee at the
second instance of mis-conduct, or after more than 2 instances of minor
misconduct A final written warning is administered by the employee’s immediate
manager, it states the exact nature of the offence, and indicates what if any future
disciplinary action will be taken against the employee if another offence occurs
within a specified time limit. A copy of the written warning is placed in the
employee’s personnel record file but is destroyed 18 months after the date on
which it was given, if the intervening service has been satisfactory. The employee
is required to read and sign the formal warning.
Further Disciplinary Action. If, despite previous warnings, an employee still fails to
reach the required standards in a reasonable period of time, (up to 18 months) it
will become necessary to consider further disciplinary action. The action taken
may be up to three days’ suspension without pay, or summary dismissal, or any
other action short of dismissal determined by the manager. Only the Senior
Manager has the authority to dismiss an employee.
Summary Dismissal. An employee may be summarily dismissed (instant dismissal
without notice) in the event of one occurrence of a very serious problem (serious
mis-conduct). Only the senior manager has the authority to summarily dismiss an
The following table is presented as a guide to the management action that is likely to
be used following each level of problem.
1st minor misconduct
Informal talk with employee
(this is not part of the formal procedure)
2nd minor misconduct
First formal warning (verbal)
Stage One of the procedure
1st misconduct or
First written warning
3rd minor misconduct
Stage Two of the procedure
2nd misconduct or
Final written warning
4th minor misconduct
Stage Three of the procedure
Serious misconduct or
3rd misconduct or
Stage Four of the procedure
5th minor misconduct
Managers have the right to decide what stage to enter the procedure, but generally
speaking the level of the offence and the number of times the individual has committed
that level of offence is a good guide.
How to handle a discipline problem
One of the best ways to ensure that employees engage in conduct and performance
that is acceptable is to make sure that they are aware that you are aware there is a
problem as early as possible. The first time you become aware of an employee under
performing a little, or behaving in a way that is against the rules but is not really serious
then have a private word with them.
Take them out of the public area and ask them why they are under performing or
behaving badly (i.e. breaking the rules). Listen to their reason and either accept and
offer any help to ensure that it doesn’t carry on, or if you don’t accept it (and the
decision to accept the reason or not is yours) tell the employee that what is going on is
unacceptable and is not to happen again.
Inform the employee that what you are doing (this discussion) is not a part of the
Discipline procedure, but warn the employee that if it does happen again you will have
no alternative but to move into the discipline procedure.
Make no official record of the discussion but keep a note in your diary that it took place.
Most people will accept that they can’t carry on operating the way they are and they
will change their behaviour. If the behaviour doesn’t change and the problem happens
again then follow the instructions below.
Operating the Disciplinary Procedure
It is important that all employees are treated fairly if they are the subject of a disciplinary
complaint. To achieve this level of consistency managers should operate as follows in
every case except where the problem is seen as serious misconduct.
Identifying the problem
Your ability to identify the problem and the subsequent use of the discipline process are
dependent on your knowledge of the rules, agreements, conventions and custom and
practice. Without such knowledge you are virtually blind to all but the most obvious
breaches of the rules. With that knowledge as a background you have to set down the
facts of the situation, as they appear prior to investigation, in a logical manner. One
way to do this is to ask the following simple questions:
Who is involved in the matter? This will involve the alleged offender plus
any victims, witnesses etc.
Where did the incident take place?
When did it happen?
What has been suggested to have happened?
Do we know why the action took place?
How does the incident break the rules?
(If the answer to this question is "no rules have been broken" then the
discipline process should not be used. It may be that some other
managerial action such as instigating training may be required.) If the
answer to this question is that one or more rules have been broken then
you should embark on an investigation.
The investigation should take place immediately following the discovery of a suspected
breach of the rules and immediately prior to convening a disciplinary interview. The
intention should be to find out all the information in order to enable the manager to
decide whether to convene a disciplinary interview.
There are several skills required if an investigation is to be carried out properly and well.
The first skill is to approach the investigation with an open and unbiased mind. It is
wrong to assume anything about the outcome of the investigation until it has reached
its conclusion.
The skills of interviewing are also needed because several different people will need to
be interviewed; witnesses, the alleged offender, and any one else the manager believes
may be able to throw light on the events being investigated. Questioning techniques
to obtain information, listening skills to hear the information and analytical skills to
make sense of all the different information obtained in order to achieve a clear picture
of what actually happened. Remember when asking questions of those who were
present at the event, that each individual will see the event through their own eyes and
will make their own individual interpretation of the event. The manager's job is to get
behind these interpretations to see the actual events rather than what each individual
thinks happened.
At the end of the investigation the manager needs to decide what to do now. There
are several alternatives open to the manager only one of which is to convene a
disciplinary interview. The manager could choose to do nothing, or set up training
processes or anything else that the manager believes will improve the situation. The
choice is the managers. The only requirement is that the manager needs to understand
why the decision was made, how it will improve the situation more than any other
alternative and if necessary be capable of justifying the decision to a higher level
Preparing the interview
It is the manager's responsibility to organise the interview. First consider the following
general points:
Where will the interview be held? The location should be free
from interruption and should accommodate all of those who will
be required to attend.
Everyone who is required to attend must be notified, this includes
the individual concerned, their representative (if one is asked for),
witnesses and another manager to take an accurate record.
Everyone has the right to representation at all levels and stages of
discipline. The individual has the right to choose any person at all
as their representative and management should accept and
allow that choice to participate in the process.
How the individual concerned is expected to respond? What
strategies have been planned to deal with unfavourable
responses? Remember the individual concerned is hardly likely to
be behaving normally; this will be a very stressful occasion. The
task of the manager is to reach a useful outcome and to do that
the manager needs the individual to behave as naturally as
possible. Try to make it as easy as possible for the individual to tell
the truth.
Are there any current problems in the organisation that may be
affected either way by your decision?
Are there any precedents set for similar problems and
Then think about the structure of the interview itself. What follows is an indication of
the general pattern of disciplinary interviews, and should be treated as such rather than
as a template, which should be followed mechanically.
Manager's opening statement
This will outline the purpose of the interview. It should make it clear that the interview is
taking place within the disciplinary procedure, identify the stage in the procedure at
which it is held and identify the level of sanction available at that stage of the
procedure should the breach of the rules be found to have taken place. This last is
particularly important. The aim of the manager should be to obtain the best possible
outcome for the organisation and the individual. In order to make that more likely it is
essential that everyone involved is fully aware of the seriousness of the situation. The
opening statement should also introduce everyone and outline his or her role in the
process. The statement should end by outlining how the interview will be structured
and conducted and ensuring that everyone understands the process as outlined.
Statement of the situation
The manager should outline the case. This outline should include a statement about
the alleged behaviour of the individual concerned, the date, time and place of the
behaviour and should clearly state which rule(s) the behaviour breaches and why.
Individual's reply
At every disciplinary interview it is essential that the individual concerned is given the
opportunity to explain their behaviour and to ask any questions of the manager that
the individual feels need to be asked.
General questioning and discussion
Remember that even though the manager believes that the investigation has shown
that there is sufficient evidence to convene a disciplinary interview, it does not
automatically follow that the individual will agree with that view. It also does not
necessarily mean that the outcome of the interview will be disciplinary action. Some
information may emerge which points the manager to action other than disciplinary
action, such as training for the individual, or even the cancellation the disciplinary
process against this individual and the opening of another disciplinary investigation of
some other individual. The discussion should be open and free enough to allow all of
the circumstances to be fully explored and considered.
At the end of the interview the manager should summarise the interview factually, and
then adjourn the meeting. The summary should also indicate those points (if any) that
the manager wants to cheek. The manager should indicate the action that will be taken
to check on those points and when the next interview will take place following the
checking of the points and the manager arriving at a decision as to the outcome of the
disciplinary interview. The manager should ensure that the next interview takes place
within a reasonable time while allowing sufficient time for the points to be checked
thoroughly and proper consideration of the overall information to have taken place.
During the Adjournment
The manager should do the following during the adjournment:
Check the outstanding issues from the interview.
Re-appraise the case.
Reach a decision as to what action to take based on the facts.
Check with other managers as to their knowledge of the individual (this
may lead to changes in the action already decided depending on what
the other managers say)
Check the individual’s record. (this may lead to changes in the action
already decided depending on what is in the record)
Finally decide what if any action to take and an explanation as to why
this action has been decided on.
Plan the next interview.
Checking outstanding issues
The manager should check the real status of the rule that has allegedly been broken.
Checking past records of similar rule breaches and talking to other managers about
how they would handle a breach of this particular rule should do this. The manager
should also look into the particular circumstances surrounding this particular situation,
particularly if there has been a strong claim for mitigation at the interview. Finally the
manager should check facts and information which were produced at the interview.
Re-appraise the case.
The manager needs to make a decision about whether, in the light of all of the
information that is now available, there is still a case to answer for the individual
concerned. If the manager decides there is now no case then the next interview should
be held to provide the individual with a clear explanation about why the case is not
being taken any further. This explanation should be factual and accurate, but it should
not be either defensive or apologetic. The process has worked and the manager should
feel no need to apologise for the outcome. Remember that the first intention of
discipline is improvement. If at the end of your consideration of the overall information
gained from the investigation, the interview and the checking of any points felt
necessary, you believe that it would be wrong or unfair or unjustifiable to carry out
disciplinary action that is fine. You have not wasted any time or money. In fact you have
spent the time and money very well because you have stopped the organisation taking
action which very probably would lead it into a situation such as a dispute or a tribunal
appearance with all the cost surrounding those two situations.
If handled properly and effectively this withdrawal from the disciplinary process can
enhance the image of both management and the discipline process as fair and
reasonable. If however the manager decides that there is still a case to answer the
proposed action should be determined and the next interview planned. Having
decided the action based on the facts the manager should identify any other
information from other managers and from the individual’s record that may enable the
manager to reduce or increase the severity of the action
Proposed action
When deciding on the proposed action the manager should check the employee's
disciplinary record, this may contain some thing which when added to this particular
case may call for action beyond the authority of the investigating manager. In these
circumstances the investigating manager should involve a senior manager with the
necessary authority to carry out (if they agree with it) the proposed action of the
investigating manager.
The manager should make sure that the proposed action is both fair and consistent by
checking on the outcomes of similar cases and identifying and evaluating the effects of
mitigating the normal penalty in this particular case. Talk to personnel and fellow
managers about these effects before a decision is made.
Planning the next interview
This interview is held for the purpose of passing out the decision of the manager in the
case, identifying the proposed action in terms of the sanction to be applied to the
individual. The actions management expect the individual to take and the time limit by
which the required improvement will be achieved, and the action management will
take to help the individual to achieve the improvement expected. It is not a discussion
and it is certainly not a negotiation. There is also a last opportunity to ask the individual
to provide any different/new information that may explain why the individual acted as
they did. If this new information is important enough to make the manager think about
the action that was due to be taken, the meeting should be adjourned while the new
information is checked out. It is probable however that there will be no new
information and if that is the case the manager simply carries on with the prepared
statement. The manager should make the statement in full and refuse to be drawn into
discussions or negotiations about the statement. The other thing this interview is for is
to explain to the individual their rights of appeal against the decision and the process
they should engage in to exercise those rights. This right will either be through an
internal appeal system, or through exercising every employee’s right to take out a
personal grievance, or both.
Follow up
Following the completion of the disciplinary process there are several things that the
manager is required to do.
The manager should record the details of the process. The more detailed the record the
better, but the following must be recorded in the individual's personnel file and a copy
kept by the manager:
Details of the situation and rule that was breached.
Details including dates and times of the investigation carried out and
interviews held.
Decision reached and actions expected of both management and individual.
Time limit covered by the decision.
What will happen to the record if the expectations are met by the time limit.
The manager should communicate the outcome of the disciplinary process to everyone
who needs to know.
The manager should put in place systems that will allow the action to be taken by
management to happen.
The action decided by the manager should be implemented immediately.
If the action is anything short of dismissal, don’t wait for an internal appeal to be
lodged, carry out the action now, it can always be rescinded on a successful appeal.
If the action is dismissal then the internal appeal should be held as quickly as possible,
and the employee should be suspended without pay until the outcome of the appeal,
at which time the action should take place, or the employee should return to work. If
there is no internal appeal then the dismissal should take place immediately.
Finally the manager should recognise that there needs to be a relationship building
process. Disciplinary action while necessary is also a source of discomfort, resentment
and possibly embarrassment to individuals. Following a procedure properly every time
will make it more likely that the end result is fair and reasonable in all the circumstances,
but it will not endear the manager to the individual who has just been disciplined.
Never the less the two people have to work with each other. It is easier for the manager
to behave in a responsible way that will encourage the individual to respond in a
similar way. Once the discipline procedure has been handled normal work relationships
should be resumed as soon as possible.
Discipline procedure for cases of serious misconduct
Once you become aware that there is a potential serious misconduct problem you
a) Immediately suspend the alleged offender on full pay
b) Follow the instructions given for non serious misconduct cases
c) While you are investigating you also need to provide the alleged offender with
the right to talk to people in the organisation to organise his/her defence. You
should allow him/her entry to the organisation during the suspension period
but only with your prior permission, only into specified areas and only if s/he is
accompanied either by his/her representative or a person nominated by you.
d) Apart from this the process for serious misconduct is exactly the same as that for
non serious misconduct except that in serious misconduct cases if the alleged
offence is shown to have happened the action you take is likely to be dismissal
Produced by Barrie Humphreys BHRM Ltd.
Disciplinary process flowchart
Potential Problem
Manager believes
that information
suggests there is
no problem, or no
rule has been
Process ends and
work carries on as
advised of right
to be
represented by
of their own
choosing and
encouraged to
take up that
And encouraged
to have that
talk to other
witnesses to
information to
present to the
Manager Carries out thorough
Outcome of investigation
Manager believes there is a
problem and can identify one
or more rules that have been
broken and decides that
discipline is the way to
Manager convenes a
discipline hearing People in
attendance for Management
to be Disciplining manager
and BHRM Individual to be
advised of right to be
represented by
Representative of their own
Manager runs hearing and
gathers information then
meeting closed and new
meeting (Disciplinary Action
Meeting) set up
Manager reviews information,
checks facts checks
personnel record and talks
with BHRM and determines
action to take
decides whether
or not to appeal
through the
internal appeal
Manager holds Disciplinary
Action Meeting and informs
individual of decision and right of
Manager implements action and
records process used
Individual appeals to MD and
Manager produces record and
explains process
BHRM available
for advice to
Manager and
Manager believes there is a
problem but some action other
than Discipline should be taken
Seek advice from other managers
and BHRM as to what other action
to take, Training for example
Manager implements action