Discipline and Grievance

by Kate Russell

Common questions

  1. What’s the difference between conduct and capability?
  2. Can I just give someone a warning if they’re doing something wrong?
  3. Who can act as a companion?
  4. Can the person who carries out the investigation chair the disciplinary hearing?
  5. What does ‘totting up’ mean?
  6. Why do I need rules?
  7. What sort of thing should rules cover?

 

1. What’s the difference between conduct and capability?

Conduct refers to a breach of standards which the employee actively chooses, ignores or can’t be bothered not to meet, for example, timekeeping or not wearing PPE.

Capability refers to a breach of standards which the employee cannot meet for some reason. For example, he does not have the skills to carry out certain work.

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2. Can I just give someone a warning if they’re doing something wrong?

Sometimes, an informal discussion is what is required to correct matters, but if an employee is failing to meet your standard in some way that cannot be brought to a satisfactory conclusion simply with an informal discussion, you should investigate to establish whether there is a case to answer and convene a formal disciplinary meeting to discuss matters.

There should be a meeting to discuss the matter and the meeting will be chaired by someone other than the person who carried out the investigation. Once youÂ’ve heard what he has to say, the discipline officer will adjourn to consider. Where the discipline officer decides to award some form of disciplinary sanction, the employee will be advised of his right of appeal. The whole thing will then be confirmed in writing.

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3. Who can act as a companion?

If you ask your workers to attend formal grievance or disciplinary hearings, they have a statutory right (if they request) to be accompanied by a fellow worker or accredited trade union official. This right applies irrespective of how many workers you employ. If you refuse a request from a worker to be accompanied at a formal disciplinary or grievance hearing, the worker may make a complaint to an employment tribunal.

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4. Can the person who carries out the investigation chair the disciplinary hearing?

As a general rule, the tribunals expect the investigating officer and the disciplining officer to be different individuals, especially when you are considering dismissal. This ensures a more independent assessment of the facts before any decision is made about a disciplinary sanction. There is no legal requirement for the two parties to be different.

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5. What does ‘totting up’ mean?

Totting up is the term used for taking a live sanction into account when making a decision about a further breach of standards. You can only tot up like with like, in other words conduct with conduct or poor performance with poor performance.

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6. Why do I need rules?

Before drawing up a disciplinary procedure, you will need to consider what standards you want in the business i.e. the minimum level of performance or conduct required by the business. This includes workplace rules which set standards at work. They should be fair, reflect the needs of the organisation and written in a way that everyone understands.

If people know and accept the rules, they will be less likely to break them. Rules help ensure a consistency of management action and can improve efficiency.

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7. What sort of thing should rules cover?

It depends upon the nature of your business, but rules can cover:

  • Gross misconduct
  • Timekeeping
  • Absence
  • Holidays
  • Health and safety
  • Standards of work
  • Personal appearance
  • Use of organisation facilities
  • Smoking
  • Non-discrimination.

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