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Which sanction should I impose following a disciplinary meeting?
To discipline an employee is often a choice that employers struggle to make – what level of sanction is given can drive managers to despair. The sanction that is given should be fair and reasonable for the level of misconduct that has occurred.
When there has been some form of misconduct in the workplace and once you have held a thorough investigation and held the disciplinary hearing, the decision then needs to be made. Where do you start with your deliberations?
The rule not to lose sight of is consistency. If employees have committed similar offences in similar circumstances you should always treat them equally.
The three sanctions of disciplinary procedure
In 2009 ACAS changed and removed the sanction of a verbal warning. This has now been replaced by the informal warning stage. Once you’ve spoken to your employee about any poor performance or misconduct then, should the poor performance or misconduct continue, you would normally move onto the formal stages of the disciplinary procedure.
Depending on the severity of the instance you may go directly to a formal sanction and miss out the informal warning stage.
- Stage 1: Written warning – this is normally given for a minor infringement that hasn’t improved since your informal warning. This can also be the sanction given if the misconduct is of a more serious nature e.g. unauthorised absence, failing to follow a reasonable instruction
- Stage 2: Final written warning – this sanction would normally be given when an employee has persistent acts of misconduct / poor performance and has a live written warning on their personnel file. For very serious levels of misconduct this could be given to an employee without them having any live disciplinary action on their files.
- Stage 3: Dismissal – this being the final decision in the 3 stage process. This can be with or without notice. With notice if you have exhausted the disciplinary process and followed the staged approach, but without notice if the act of misconduct amounts to gross misconduct.
When considering dismissal, you should ask yourself would a reasonable employer have reached the decision to dismiss. This is known as ‘falling within the band of reasonable responses’. See more information here.
The disciplinary process can be quite a daunting process. Before you reach your final decision, ask yourself are there any mitigating factors that you need to consider? For example, a previously high-performing employee may be distracted by major events – such as a bereavement – in their personal life. This may result in your sanction being reduced. The decision that you decide can always be appealed if the employee feels there has been an injustice, just ensure you offer them that right to appeal.
Anita Manfredi of Employer Solutions – QCS Expert HR Contributor
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