Disciplinary procedures are an aid to the effective management of people, and should not be viewed primarily as a means of imposing sanctions or as leading to dismissal. Where dismissal does occur, employees may make a complaint to an employment tribunal if they believe they have been unfairly dismissed, although ordinarily the employee must have one year’s service1. It is for the employer to show the reason for the dismissal and that it was a fair reason.
The tribunal will determine whether the dismissal was fair or unfair and will take into account the size and administrative resources of the employer in deciding whether they acted reasonably or unreasonably. The tribunal will take account of Code of Practice the guidance given in the Acas Code of Practice on Disciplinary and grievance procedures [327kb] (see Annexes A and C of the Code) and consider how far the statutory three-step procedures have been followed.
What does it mean? Check the glossary for more explanation of the terms used in this handbook. The Code of Practice provides guidance on good practice in disciplinary and grievance matters in employment, and includes information on the right to be accompanied at a disciplinary or grievance hearing. Acas handbook Although this handbook is purely advisory it complements the Code of Practice by giving additional practical advice. Discipline
Section 1 on discipline at work starts by explaining why organisations need rules and disciplinary procedures and gives an overview of how to handle discipline. It then looks in depth at. The rest of the part on discipline gives advice on handling absence, unsatisfactory performance and particular cases – such as those involving trade union representatives, criminal charges or employees in remote locations. Grievances Part 2 – Grievance procedures considers why organisations need procedures and gives advice on how to handle a grievance hearing.
Guidance is also given on special cases – such as those to do with bullying or harassment, discrimination and whistleblowing. In these sensitive areas some organisations may wish to develop separate procedures. The statutory minimum grievance procedures are also summarised in Part 2 Grievance procedures. The right to be accompanied Part 3- The right to be accompanied. Checklist for the right of accompaniment has information on the right to be accompanied at disciplinary and grievance meetings. Prevention is better than cure
Although it is important to deal with discipline and grievance issues fairly and effectively it is more important to prevent problems arising in the first place. The first step is to understand the relationship between discipline and grievance issues and wider issues like communication, induction and training. For example, if managers and staff are in the habit of talking to each other openly about what’s happening at work then specific problems – like lack of training or poor motivation – can be resolved before any disciplinary action becomes necessary.
Equally, if staff are given contracts of employment when they start work – including rules for absence, timekeeping and discipline, as well as details of pay, holidays etc – then there will be less opportunity for ambiguity if problems arise in the future. The use of the formal disciplinary and grievance procedures should be considered a ‘last resort’ rather than the first option. Many problems can be sorted out through informal dialogue between managers and staff –a ‘quiet word’ is often all that’s needed.
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