Importance of Disciplinary Procedures
It is a requirement for an employer to provide each new employee with a written statement of certain terms of his employment including specifying any disciplinary rules, or to refer the employee to a document which specifies such rules. However, having properly documented procedures can also assist you in avoiding allegations by an employee that his or her treatment was discriminatory or dismissal was procedurally unfair.
Effective disciplinary procedures are a valuable management tool in avoiding allegations of disparity in the treatment of employees and minimising the risk of an action for unlawful discrimination, constructive dismissal or procedurally unfair dismissal.
In the absence of such a disciplinary procedure the employment tribunal will have regard to the ACAS Disciplinary Code and any such disciplinary procedure that you do develop will be expected to comply with the code.
In developing such a procedure you may well need to consider disciplinary procedures to cover a number of different eventualities. For instance, employee problems related to conduct may involve wholly different considerations to those related to capability. Investigatory and disciplinary procedures will need to be tailored appropriately.
Whilst all predictable disciplinary problems and requirements should be covered, any list of transgressions should be stated to be non-exhaustive, giving you the opportunity to lay down ad hoc judgements in an unforeseen situation.
Disciplinary rules, their status and the sanctions likely to be imposed, must be communicated to employees. In particular, it should be made clear whether the rules are merely operating instructions or whether breach of those rules may result in disciplinary action against the transgressor. It is important to distinguish between a disciplinary procedure (which should be non-contractual) and disciplinary rules as to, for example, what constitutes gross misconduct, which should be contractual.