Disciplinary warnings

This is an important part of a fair disciplinary process.

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Check your employment documents

Review any disciplinary arrangements set out in your policies or contract and any data protection policies you have for employees. For further information read Data protection and employees. This note summarises the minimum standards but if your own arrangements are more generous on any point then follow that arrangement.

Choosing and communicating the disciplinary decision

After the disciplinary hearing, you should reach a decision and communicate it.

For simple cases, you can confirm the decision at the end of the meeting. However, it’s often helpful to allow a day or two to reflect and deal with any follow-up queries. In these cases, it’s good practice to call another meeting to confirm the final outcome.

When you decide what penalty to apply you must consider how serious the offence was, any mitigating factors, previous similar cases (consistency is vital) and the employee’s disciplinary record.

Giving misconduct warnings

Except in cases of gross misconduct, a first offence should normally receive a first written or oral warning, valid for a set period of time. Second offences which occur while a first warning is live should receive a final written warning. Normally, you can only dismiss an employee if they commit another offence within the period of a final warning. Consider using the disciplinary outcome letter for misconduct to issue a first or final written warning if the matter related to misconduct and the disciplinary outcome letter for poor performance to issue a first or final written warning if the matter related to poor performance. These letters also allow you to confirm that no further action will be taken.

When you issue a warning, say clearly what the warning is for, what the employee should do in response and how long the warning period will last. First warnings normally last for six months and final written warnings for one year. If a warning expires, it can’t be used in future disciplinary actions. All these matters are covered by Rocket Lawyer’s disciplinary outcome letters.

In gross misconduct cases, you can sack an employee for a first offence, as long as a fair process is followed. There’s no set definition of gross misconduct – and your definition in your employment contract and in your workplace rules must be seen as objectively reasonable – but it must normally be deliberate or grossly negligent. You should consider sending the employee a summary dismissal letter for gross misconduct to confirm the decision.

Giving performance warnings

Follow internal procedures and ACAS guidance. If you don’t have a specific performance policy then comply with your disciplinary policy. Consider an informal discussion for first or minor problems. For more serious or repeated issues, use a formal process including formal warnings.

Before giving a formal warning, write to the employee explaining the issue and inviting them to a meeting to discuss it. Explain the possible consequences and that they have the right to a meeting companion. You can consider using an invitation letter to a poor performance hearing. Leave at least five working days between the letter and the meeting. Provide reasonable additional support or training to the employee.

If an employee appeals a disciplinary decision, let them know in writing that you’ve arranged a formal appeal meeting and that they can bring a companion. You can consider using an invitation letter to a poor performance appeal hearing.

Confirm any warning in writing, clearly explaining the change required, the timescale for improvement and the possible consequences of failure to meet the required standard in that timeframe. You can consider using a disciplinary outcome letter for poor performance to issue a first or final written warning or to confirm that no further action will be taken.

The warning should have a lifespan, usually six months for a first warning and 12 months for a final warning.

Right to appeal

Whatever the outcome, let the employee know as soon as possible. Confirm the decision by letter. It must be clear and include all the reasons for the decision, allowing them to weigh up their chances for an appeal and, if it’s for a warning, give a basis for any disciplinary action that might follow. The letter should also let the employee know that they have a right to appeal and to ask for a copy of the notes taken at the hearing, if they’re available.

 
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Create your Disciplinary outcome letter

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