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How to: manage disciplinary action

09 April 2010

If you need to take disciplinary action against a member of staff, here are 10 things to remember:

1. Always carry out an appropriate investigation. It should be carried out by someone who will not conduct any subsequent disciplinary hearing.

2. Employers can suspend an employee, on full pay, while an investigation is undertaken but any period of suspension should be as brief as possible.

3. The decision to suspend an employee should not be an automatic reaction to a disciplinary issue. The employer should consider whether suspension is appropriate in the circumstances, given the consequences for the employee of being out of the workplace, and the potential damage to the employee's reputation.

4. If necessary, the employee should be invited, in writing, to a disciplinary hearing, and should be given sufficient time to prepare their case - usually no less than 48 hours. The employee should also be informed of the basis of the allegations and provided with any evidence collected.

5. Where the hearing could result in disciplinary action, the employee has a right to be accompanied by a fellow worker or trade union representative (irrespective of whether the employer recognises any union).

6. At the hearing, the employee should be given an opportunity to respond to all the allegations and be allowed to comment on all the evidence collected.

7. After the meeting, the employer should decide what, if any, disciplinary action is appropriate.

8. Suspension should not be used as a disciplinary sanction unless the employer has an express contractual right to do so.

9. If misconduct or poor performance is established, a dismissal would usually only be appropriate if there have been prior written warnings. Gross misconduct can justify dismissal for a first offence.

10. The employee should be given the right to appeal a disciplinary decision. Any appeal should be heard without delay and not by anyone involved in previous stages of the process.

Courtesy of Caterer's sister publication, Personnel Today.

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