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How do I handle taking disciplinary action against a member of staff?

We strongly recommend you read the Acas Code of Practice for Disciplinary & Grievance Procedures, which underpins in the law in this area. If you end up dismissing someone unfairly, their compensation at a tribunal can be further increased for any unreasonable failure to follow the Code.

The key practicalities we would highlight:

  • If there’s a minor issue, deal with it informally and privately, but still send a note to the employee making it clear that a formal process is likely to follow any repeat.
  • Always investigate to establish facts before reaching any conclusion, even if it looks straightforward. The more serious an allegation, the more investigation is likely to be reasonable.
  • Keep written records of all steps taken, but be careful what you write as you are likely to be required to disclose such records.
  • Maintain confidentiality and remind the employee and any witnesses of their duty to do the same.
  • Act promptly.
  • Communicate your decisions effectively, giving your reasons for each decision taken.
  • Wherever possible, allocate separate personnel for each stage at the outset: investigation, disciplinary hearing, and any appeal. If you’re a smaller business, consider external help (we can provide resource for this).
  • In serious cases where you may be considering suspension, take advice. Although designed to be a ‘neutral act’, this can be a complex area.

In a formal process you will need to write to an employee in advance with your concerns (and evidence) inviting them to a meeting and setting out the possible outcomes, e.g. a warning or dismissal. Ensure they are told of their right to be accompanied.

At the hearing, the employee must be given due opportunity to respond to the concerns.

Always confirm the decision and any sanction in writing, including reasons. Remember that with any formal outcome, including dismissal, you must give the employee the opportunity to appeal, within a specified timescale.

Do also watch our video:

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