In cases of misconduct employees should be given a written warning setting out the nature of the misconduct and the change in behaviour required. The warning should also inform the employee that a final written warning may be considered if there is no sustained satisfactory improvement or change.
A record of the warning should be kept, but it should be disregarded for disciplinary purposes after a specified period (eg, six months).
If an employee’s misconduct or unsatisfactory performance is sufficiently serious it may be justifiable to move directly to a final written warning. Such a warning should normally remain current for a specified period, for example, 12 months, and contain a statement that further misconduct or poor performance may lead to dismissal.
The opportunity to appeal against a disciplinary decision is one of the key ingredients of what is often called ‘reasonable behaviour’.
Reasonable behaviour is a yardstick tribunals use to assess how employers have dealt with a case. As well as the right of appeal it includes other principles of natural justice, such as letting employees have their say and the right to be accompanied to disciplinary and grievance meetings.
If you have already given a final warning and decided to dismiss an employee – or impose action short of dismissal (such as demotion or loss of pay) – you have to follow a statutory procedure.
This means you must do three things:
- Write to the employee setting out your reasons for disciplinary action or dismissal
- Invite your employee to a meeting to discuss the matter, and
- Hold an appeal meeting if necessary.
If you have not followed these three steps the tribunal may well judge the dismissal ‘automatically unfair’. The compensation may increase or decrease – by between 10-50% - depending on whether the employer or employee failed to adhere to the new law.
Grievance procedures are used by employees to help resolve problems they may have with their employer.
Anybody working in an organisation may, at some time, have problems or concerns about their work, working conditions or relationships with colleagues that they wish to talk about with management.
Employees should aim to settle most grievances informally with their line manager. But, if a grievance cannot be settled informally, the employee should raise it formally with management. Hopefully the issue can be resolved quickly.
However if an employee wishes to use the grievance as the basis of a complaint to an employment tribunal they must first complete step 1 of the statutory grievance procedure. This means they have to tell the employer about their grievance in writing.
The other steps involve holding a meeting to discuss the grievance and, if the employee requests an appeal, holding an appeal meeting to review the complaint.
Many employers may wish to have separate grievance procedures for dealing with sensitive issues such as bullying and harassment.
To keep informed about changes in the law and how to apply the new laws to your workplace, Acas can help. Call 08457 47 47 47 or visit www.acas.org.uk to find out about our training sessions, publications and to register for our free online learning package on Discipline and Grievance.