Home » Disciplinaries

Disciplinary Process

What is a disciplinary process?

A disciplinary process is a formal way for an employer to deal with an employee’s poor conduct. An employer is required by law to have a disciplinary process, and the best place to keep this process is in a Staff Handbook.

When can a disciplinary process be avoided?

In some cases, it might be suitable for an employer to consider dealing with a conduct issue informally, e.g. by just talking to the employee or agreeing improvements in conduct. However, in other cases, if the misconduct is serious, a formal disciplinary process will be the most appropriate way of dealing with the situation.

What is misconduct?

Misconduct is when an employee’s conduct falls below the standard expected of them by their employer. Usually, an employer will include examples of what they consider to be misconduct in their disciplinary policy. The best place to keep that policy is in a Staff Handbook.

What is gross misconduct?

When misconduct is very serious it can be considered gross misconduct. Common examples of gross misconduct include things like theft, physical violence, acts of discrimination, fraud, serious negligence or serious breach of health & safety rules. Often, an employer will look to dismiss an employee who has committed gross misconduct. Read more here about dismissals.

Why is a fair disciplinary process important?

Firstly, it will ensure that an employee gets a fair hearing and has the chance to explain their side of the story. Secondly, it will help the employer defend any potential claims down the line, because for example, where an employee is dismissed following an unfair or defective disciplinary process, it can potentially result in the whole dismissal being unfair. It can also potentially increase an employee’s compensation in a Tribunal claim.

How to start a disciplinary process?

Where an employer has its own written disciplinary policy, it should follow the process set out in that policy when dealing with any alleged misconduct. However, the starting point will always be to carry out some investigation into the situation first to get as much information as possible about the alleged misconduct.

How much investigation is needed?

The employer needs to find out what information they reasonably can about the alleged misconduct. The employer’s disciplinary policy may also have some specific requirements for how the investigation should be carried out, for example, the holding of an investigation hearing. At the end of the investigation stage, the employer needs to be in a position to decide whether the case should move ahead to a disciplinary hearing.

Who should carry out the investigation?

Ideally someone senior and experienced, but certainly someone who is independent of the issues involved with the alleged misconduct. The person who carries out the investigation should have no involvement with any resulting disciplinary process or hearing.

Should an employee be suspended?

Sometimes an employer will suspend an employee until the outcome of an investigation or disciplinary process. However, suspending an employee can be risky and should be an employer’s last resort. Examples of exceptional situations which might justify suspension include where an employer needs to protect other employees or the individual under investigation.

What happens before a disciplinary hearing?

The employee should be told what the allegations against them are and be given copies of the evidence collected at the investigation stage. When being invited to a disciplinary hearing, the employee should be told about their right to be accompanied by a colleague or trade union representative and about what possible outcomes there may be following the hearing.

What happens at a disciplinary hearing?

The hearing is the chance for the employer to explain the allegations and for the employee to give their side of the story. The employer can either give the employee their decision at the end of the hearing or they can say that they’ll confirm it in writing. The decision could involve the following:

  • No further action;
  • Verbal warning;
  • First written warning;
  • Final written warning;
  • Dismissal;

Should disciplinary decisions be consistent with previous decisions?

Yes. An employer should check back to see whether their workplace has dealt with a similar situation before, because treating an employee in a way that’s inconsistent with similar previous cases could expose the employer to the risk of a Tribunal claim.

Can an employee appeal the decision?

Yes, an employee should be given the right to appeal the decision. If they do, an appeal hearing should be held, with the employee again having the right to be accompanied by a colleague or trade union representative. The appeal hearing should be conducted by someone independent of the disciplinary process (and ideally by someone more senior than the person who held the disciplinary hearing).

What if an employee raises a grievance during the disciplinary process?

If the grievance is about something completely unrelated to the disciplinary case, the employer should pause the disciplinary process to deal with the grievance first. However, if the grievance is about something closely linked to the disciplinary case, an employer may decide to simply treat the employee’s grievance as part of their defence to the disciplinary case.

What if an employee fails to turn up to a disciplinary hearing?

An employer should try to re-schedule the hearing at least once. However, there will come a point where, unless an employee has a good enough reason to be absent, the employer will have to hold the disciplinary hearing without the employee being there and just confirm their decision in writing.

If you need any advice on disciplinaries, please contact a member of our employment law team in confidence here or on 02920 829 100 for a free initial call to see how they can help.

To speak to one of our experts today, please contact us on 02920 829 100 or by using our Contact Us form for a free initial chat to see how we can help.

Contact Our Team
Bríd Price
View Profile
Damian Phillips
View Profile
Fflur Jones
Managing Partner
View Profile
Fiona Sinclair
HR Consultant
View Profile
Heledd Evans
Trainee Solicitor
View Profile
Nicole Brendel
View Profile
Owen John
View Profile
Rachel Ford-Evans
Senior Associate
View Profile
Seren Trigg
HR Consultant
View Profile

I have worked with Darwin Gray for a number of years and the level of service, professionalism and timely response is second to none. I would highly recommend Darwin Gray to any business.”

Becs Beslee
Dice FM Ltd

Darwin Gray have provided us with a first-class service for many years now. They really take the time to understand our business and develop relationships which results in advice and support that is contextualised and effective.”

Rebecca Cooper
ACT Training

We have worked with Darwin Gray for several years and have always found their services and advice to be first class.”

Karen Gale
Stepping Stones Group

An extremely professional and sincere company who make time for your queries and understand the need to break down certain facts and information to ensure everything is understood perfectly. I would highly recommend the company to anyone looking for any type of legal advice”

Gwawr Booth
Portal Training Ltd

PSS has worked with Darwin Gray for many years. We have always received an excellent service. Prompt and professional advice and support.”

Ledia Shabani
Property Support Services UK Ltd

We have used several departments within DG recently and we have been very pleased with an effective, efficient and down to earth service. Very happy thus far and I expect that we will continue to use DG.”

Guto Bebb
Farmers’ Union of Wales

Darwin Gray offer us truly superb services. Very professional, quick and services available bilingually which is very important to us, highly recommend.”

Iwan Hywel
Mentrau Iaith Cymru

My “go to” in urgent and time sensitive cases for direction, support and advice. The team are quick to respond to calls or emails for advice and support on all matters. Always explain complex matters in a way a lay person can easily understand.”

Margot Adams
Guarding UK Ltd

Darwin Gray have acted for myself and my company over a number of years and at all times we have been treated with a professional manner yet maintain a common-sense approach at all levels. We couldn’t recommend them more highly.”

Simon Baston
Loft Co

We have been clients of Darwin Gray for many years; they’ve always dealt with all of our legal matters with such professionalism. They work around us, even during awkward hours, and we feel confident we can always rely on them.”

Louise Williams
ACT Training

Darwin Gray has been acting for Siltbuster for more than ten years. We would have no hesitation in recommending Darwin Gray to other organisations small or large.”

Richard D Coulton
Siltbuster Ltd

From the very first conversation, I had no doubt that Darwin Gray should be the firm to receive our instructions on this matter. I would have no hesitation in recommending Darwin Gray.”

Sandra Warr
Tomos TV

We regularly instruct Darwin Gray. Their service in dealing with our transactional matters and disputes is always professional, prompt and efficient.”

John Poppleton
Absolute Property Management Solutions Ltd

Darwin Gray guided me through a long and extended process that would have been much more difficult had it not been for their patience and constant support.”

Ifan Lewis

Excellent and efficient service. Great result achieved, highly professional and transparent on pricing. Would recommend.”

David Stevens

Superb legal service provided. Exceeded expectations. They went above and beyond in order to provide the best service possible.”

Huw Pickrell

Very professional and understanding. They were a calming influence in a very troubling situation and they brought it to a very successful conclusion”

Rachel Jones

We have used Darwin Gray and have been seriously impressed. The personal approach is what Darwin Gray are excelling on and is the reason why we will continue to work with them in the future.”

Cadwyn Housing Association