Disciplinary and Grievance Procedures
The need for satisfactory standards of performance and behaviour from employees is essential for all organisations. A fair and comprehensive disciplinary procedure is necessary to deal with employees who deviate from these standards. The purpose of such a system is not just impose punishments on employees but also to assist employees improve performance or conduct with the exception of Gross or Serious misconduct.
Dismissal should only occur when all other efforts have failed.
Disciplining staff is not a pleasant activity, but it is important to the overall wellbeing of an organisation that it is carried out correctly. As it is the employer who is ultimately responsible for the behaviour of their employees, if misconduct goes unrebuked the organisation will suffer. An employee who misbehaves can upset the working environment, cause good staff to leave and even bring the organisation into public disrepute.
Section 14 of the 1977 Unfair Dismissals Act requires that within 28 days of commencement of employment, an employee must be advised of the procedures which will be used for dismissal. The Employment Appeals Tribunal has been very influenced by the dismissal methods used by Employers and the manner in which they are applied. The High Court has also suggested that the lack of procedural fairness can result in employers being unable to prove that the grounds alleged for a dismissal are justifiable.
The Unfair Dismissals Acts, 1977-2001 set out various grounds of dismissal, which, when properly followed, will be held to be fair. It is not necessary for Disciplinary Procedures to provide for an appeal against dismissal within the Organisation. If there is an appeal procedure in place it must be consistantly applied. It is important that the management person hearing the appeal had not been involved in the decision to dismiss as this could render the dismissal technically unfair. An appeal against a lesser sanction can be heard through the Grievence Procedure.
Action taken at an early and informal stage before the formal procedure is used can lead to improved standards of performance and behaviour. At this stage it might be helpful to discuss the following with the employee:
- Check that the standards of performance and behaviour expected of employees have been explained.
- Check that the employee has been given time to learn the tasks involved in their job.
- Check that they have adjusted to any changes made by management.
- Check that they have had sufficient training.
- Check that there is no personal problems causing anxiety and affecting performance.
Having talked the matter over informally with the employee, management must then decide if there is a need to resort to the formal procedure.
A Formal Disciplinary Procedure should be drafted to cover as many specific situations as possible and yet remain flexible. There is nothing to prevent Employers including Disciplinary Procedures in the Contract of Employment. An Employer considering dismissal for alleged misconduct must have a genuine belief that the employee committed the act of misconduct. This belief must be based on reasonable grounds and have followed a thorough investigation. It is prudent to suspend an employee, With Pay pending investigation into alleged misconduct.
When carrying out a Disciplinary Investigation and Implementing the Formal Procedure it is essential that they comply with the principles of natural justice which are:
- The Employee must be presented with the case against him/her.
- They must be allowed representation if requested.
- They must be given the opportunity to state their case.
- The Employer must hear and be seen to hear the case being made.
- The Employer must only form judgement after having heard all of the facts.
- The punishment must fit the crime. Dismissal should NOT be seen as excessive.
In instances where an Employer invokes the Disciplinary Procedure in relation to an employees competence, it will usually entail protracted observations. In these cases employers should:
- Identify the level of competence below which the employee is falling.
- Review Performance and, if appropriate, issue warnings.
- Understand that a once off act of carelessness is not considered incompetence.
- Allow an opportunity to improve and provide training if necessary.
- Provide for monitoring and review with further warnings if necessary.
- Allow the employee the opportunity to state his or her case.
Details on how to Conduct an Investigation are outlined in the Bullying and Harassment Section. A Sample Disciplinary and Grievance Procedure is contained in the Employee Handbook Template Section of this website.
Grievance ProcedureIn conjunction with a Disciplinary Procedure as outlined, it is essential that Organisations outline a Procedure to be used in the event of grievances arising on the employee’s side. The benefit of such a procedure is that it prevents an accumulation of minor issues and ensures that industrial action remains an avenue of last resort
Failure to resolve grievances without delay may result in a minor grievance escalating into a dispute. A senior member of management should ensure that all grievances are dealt with consistently and fairly.
Once a grievance has been raised, a meeting should be set up as soon as possible to allow the grievance to be aired. Management must approach the meeting from a neutral point of view. The purpose here is to ascertain all the relevant facts and determine the issues involved. The meeting should be conducted in an orderly fashion whereby aggression and rudeness are not tolerated. This should be made clear to all concerned.
It is important to note that very often what is expressed as a grievance is not the underlying problem. Therefore, the task for the manager is to discover the real cause of the problem. If a decision is not made there and then, the meeting should conclude by stating what happens next.
It is important that personalities are kept out of the matter, and that decisions are taken on the basis of facts. When a decision has been taken the reasons for it should be clearly explained to the employee. Before deciding on the resolution of a grievance, management must be aware of the implications of their decisions on future grievances.
A sample Grievence Procedure is outlined in the Employee Handbook Template Section of this site.