Disciplinary and dismissal | NatWest


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Add your signposting title here… Disciplinary procedures and dismissal

While it’s by no means certain that you’ll ever have to carry out a disciplinary procedure in the workplace, it’s most definitely worth being aware of what such a process involves.

The actions or behaviours considered worthy of disciplinary action tend to be more or less the same from business to business, but it still makes sense to have a dedicated company handbook containing a disciplinary policy that spells out grounds for dismissal. Many companies make each new employee sign to confirm that they have read and understand the guidelines when they are given their contract.

What can result in a disciplinary procedure?

Disciplinary procedures generally crop up when an employee has done something that is against company policy. This could include anything from bullying, harassment or theft, to fraud, general poor performance or misuse of company property. However, employees could also be disciplined for less obvious things, such as having unauthorised absences or poor timekeeping.

In most cases, unless the incident is particularly serious,it's worth trying to address it by having an informal conversation. By making the employee aware of objections and/or complaints, you can attempt to resolve the problem before it escalates.

However, should the situation intensify, or if the employee continues to flout the rules once they have been made fully aware of the potential consequences of doing so, disciplinary action may be required.

Formal procedures

If you decide that formal disciplinary action is necessary, then you should follow the Acas Code of Practice. This sets out the requirements of fairness that are appropriate to most cases. The Code has been specially developed to help employers, employees and any representatives deal with disciplinary and grievance issues in a way that is reasonable and unbiased.

If the employee’s transgression is serious enough, then it is not uncommon for them to be suspended while an investigation takes place. Should this happen, it’s important to remain impartial and fair while trying to piece together all of the details surrounding the situation. If new information comes to light that means the employee must be found innocent, you don’t want to have given the employee any reason to take you to a tribunal.

Should you discover that the individual in question has committed an offence (or number of offences), then the employer will generally end up terminating their contract.

Acas code of practice
Employment tribunals

If an individual strongly disagrees with the outcome of a disciplinary hearing, then they may decide to go to an employment tribunal. The employee will then be asked to provide evidence to support their claim – which will often be a case of wrongful dismissal – and the employer (or a representative of the employer) will then be given the opportunity to respond. The result will sometimes be given on the day of the hearing, but can sometimes take a few days. Once a decision has been made, all parties involved will be informed.

Employment tribunals are legally required to take the Acas Code of Practice into account. 

Dismissing an employee

The basics

The first thing to note is that dismissing someone is different from making them redundant. Though the consequence is the same – the employee losing their position – the circumstances that bring about the dismissal are not. 

Coming to the decision

Ensure that your decision to dismiss someone is entirely justified. Has the employee been performing poorly for an extended period, or are they just going through a rough patch? Could they benefit from additional training? Have you already given them an adequate number of warnings? Have you discussed the situation with a senior member of your team? Did they come to the same conclusion?

The process

When dismissing someone, make sure that there is a witness present. By doing this you are ensuring that someone without an agenda is privy to the conversation. This could be crucial should the terminated party decide to escalate the case further down the line.

Create a list of reasons that back up your decision. This will give you additional clarity, and will prevent you from changing your mind once it has been made up. It’s not always necessary to tell the employee exactly what behaviours have led to them losing their job, simply declaring that they’ve failed to achieve what was expected of them is often enough.

Explain to the individual the terms of the dismissal. Let them know how much severance pay (if any) they’ll be given, and also what other benefits they’ll be entitled to. Put this in writing for additional clarity.

It's also worth giving other staff a basica outline of why the dismissal has taken place.

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