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Disciplinary procedures: Six common mistakes made by inexperienced managers

Friday, October 9th, 2015

Inexperienced managers can struggle to put disciplinary policies into practice.

Employers often spend a large amount of time drafting a fair disciplinary policy, but fail to give the same attention to training their staff to put it into practice.

Here are six common mistakes made by inexperienced managers:

  1. Not following the Acas code of practice

Managers need to be familiar with the Acas code of practice on disciplinary and grievance procedures, as well as their own disciplinary rules and procedures.

Although a failure to follow the code does not in itself make an employer liable to proceedings, employment tribunals will take the code into account when considering relevant cases.

  1. Not warning the employee of the possible consequences

The employee must be made fully aware of the likely disciplinary penalties if the allegations are upheld.

Depending on the seriousness of the allegations, the possible penalty might be a formal verbal warning, a written warning, a final written warning or indeed dismissal. In short, the disciplinary decision should not contain any surprises.

  1. Including new allegations without investigating

It can be tempting to add any new allegations that surface during a disciplinary investigation to the current ones that are subject to the disciplinary process.

This is not advisable, as any fresh allegations must be fully investigated before a disciplinary hearing takes place.

  1. Issuing the penalty without considering all relevant factors

Managers should consider what type of penalty has been imposed in similar cases in the past. They should then bear in mind the particular circumstances. This can include the employee’s disciplinary record, his or her general work record and position within the organisation as well as length of service.

Managers must also take into account any mitigating circumstances. This could cover matters relating to the employee’s health, any domestic problems, or whether or not the behaviour in question arose due to the employee being provoked. If the employee has breached a rule, consideration needs to be given to whether or not the employee was reasonably aware of that rule.

  1. Not checking what penalties are allowed under the disciplinary policy

Only in very serious cases will summary dismissal for a first offence be merited. In cases of minor misconduct, a series of warnings before dismissal will be more fitting.

  1. Getting the reason for the dismissal wrong

Employers sometimes struggle to categorise the type of behaviour that has given rise to the allegation. A dismissal will be considered unfair, even if the employee could have been dismissed fairly on the facts, if the stated reason for the dismissal is incorrect.

So if you are not sure – get some help – call us on 01924 441032.