Do you want to end up in an employment tribunal? To avoid the cost in time, energy and money you should do two things.
Firstly, get some procedures in place for dealing with discipline and grievances and, secondly talk to your employees before taking any action.
Small firms often find it easier to deal with problems informally. Just a chat with a colleague can often resolve an issue. However, if a problem does persist you will need clear procedures to follow.
These procedures should aim to help employees improve their performance or conduct and resolve any grievances they might have. The Acas advisory handbook Discipline and grievances at work can help you set up disciplinary and grievance procedures.
Everything that happens as part of the disciplinary process should happen within a supportive framework designed to improve performance and behaviour rather than impose sanctions.
The best way to diffuse difficult situations is often to have a quiet word and find out what’s really going on. This can be done discreetly and without the emotion that is often associated with a disciplinary meeting.
If informal action does not work or a problem is sufficiently serious then formal action is needed. A meeting should be held within the context of a careful consideration of all the facts, the employee’s previous record and the organisation’s standards on behaviour and performance.
Give the employee time to prepare for the meeting and remind them of their right to be accompanied. Clearly state what the complaint is against the employee, go through the evidence and give the employee the chance to respond. The key to any disciplinary meeting is listening – if the employer feels there is a lot to digest then it is worth adjourning to allow more time to reflect on the case.
Any action should be taken within the right context – have there been any similar cases in the past, and are there any special circumstances to be taken into account?
For unsatisfactory performance the first penalty should take the form of an improvement note. This sets out the nature of the problem, the improvement required, and the timescale for achieving the improvement. It should also set the review date and give details of any support the employer will offer.
It is important that the employee realises that this note represents the first stage of a formal procedure and that failure to improve could result in a final written warning and, ultimately, dismissal.