When it comes to disciplinary procedures, employers in the United Kingdom have a legal obligation to follow certain rules and guidelines set out by the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS) and UK employment laws. Unfortunately, many employers make mistakes during disciplinary procedures, which can lead to costly and time-consuming legal disputes. Here are some common mistakes that employers make during disciplinary procedures and how to avoid them:
- Failure to investigate the matter fully: Employers are required to investigate any disciplinary issue thoroughly before taking any action. This includes interviewing any relevant parties, reviewing any evidence and giving the employee the opportunity to provide their own evidence. Failure to conduct a proper investigation can lead to an unfair dismissal claim.
- Failure to follow procedures: Employers are required to follow the ACAS Code of Practice on Discipline and Grievance, which sets out the principles that employers should follow when dealing with disciplinary issues. Failure to follow these procedures can lead to an unfair dismissal claim and may also result in an increase in the amount of compensation awarded if an employee is dismissed.
- Failure to give an employee the right to be accompanied: Under UK law, an employee has the right to be accompanied by a colleague or trade union representative at any disciplinary or grievance hearing. Employers who fail to give an employee this right may be found in breach of their statutory rights.
- Jumping to conclusions: Employers must make sure that they are not jumping to conclusions and must give the employee the opportunity to provide their own account of the events, even if it conflicts with the evidence of other employees or the employer.
- Not providing adequate reasons for dismissal: Employers must provide adequate reasons for dismissal, which must be related to the employee’s conduct or capability, and be fair and reasonable. This will enable the employee to appeal the dismissal and for an Employment Tribunal to establish if the dismissal was fair or not.
- Not considering alternatives: When disciplinary action is being considered, employers must consider all alternatives, such as training, counselling or warnings before making any decisions. Employers should also ensure that the employee is aware of the alternatives and has been given the opportunity to put their case forward.
- Not keeping a record of the disciplinary process: Employers are required to keep a record of all disciplinary proceedings, including any investigation and hearings. This can be used as evidence in case of any legal disputes that may arise.
- Failure to consider the potential impact of discrimination laws: Employers must ensure that their disciplinary procedures do not discriminate against employees on the grounds of age, disability, gender, race, religion, sexual orientation or any other protected characteristic.
To avoid these mistakes, it’s important for employers to have clear and specific policies in place that outline what constitutes acceptable and unacceptable conduct, both in and outside of the workplace. Employers should also have clear procedures for dealing with disciplinary issues and should ensure that all decisions are made fairly and consistently, in accordance with the ACAS Code of Practice on Discipline and Grievance and UK Employment laws.
In summary, during disciplinary procedures, UK employers are subject to ACAS and UK employment laws. The common mistakes employers make include failure to investigate, failure to follow procedures, failure to give employee the right to be accompanied, jumping to conclusions, not providing adequate reasons for dismissal, not considering alternatives, not keeping a record of the process, and not considering the potential impact of discrimination laws. To avoid these mistakes, it’s important for employers to have clear and specific policies in place and ensure that all decisions are made fairly and consistently.