Another question that comes up from time to time is how and when to initiate the disciplinary procedures - How many warnings can an employee receive before being dismissed? When do I give a final warning? Can I fire my employee for committing an offence of gross misconduct?
The first step is always to inform the employee of issues that you may have, even minor issues; whether it is with their job performance, their time keeping, or even a breach of company rules, by means of informal counselling. The employee must be given the appropriate time/measures to defend themselves or at least be given the chance to rectify the problem. Prior to taking the decision to invoke the disciplinary procedure, the employer must ensure that the situation has been thoroughly investigated.
The following disciplinary procedures should apply in matters of discipline; constant repetition of minor offences, willful negligence or unsatisfactory performance or complaints, that are found to be proven against the employees.
The stages in the procedure are as follows:
• Stage 1 - Verbal Warning
• Stage 2 - First Written Warning
• Stage 3 - Final Written Warning - The final written warning will state clearly that the next stage may be termination of employment if conduct and/or performance does not improve.
• Stage 4: Action Short of Dismissal - In exceptional circumstances, and depending on the individual case, The Company may exercise its discretion to suspend with or without pay. Demotion to a lower position or rate of pay and transfer to another position may also be considered. This is action short of dismissal.
• Stage 5: Dismissal - In an instance of gross misconduct, a full investigation will be conducted and a disciplinary meeting will be held. This will follow the normal procedures outlined above, but the outcome, if found to be gross misconduct, will almost certainly result in dismissal due to the serious nature of the situation.
At each stage in the procedure a disciplinary meeting should be held, where all the facts will be considered and any mitigating circumstances discussed, as well as timelines imposed for improvements, etc. Where a warning is issued, a copy will be placed on the employees personnel file for a defined period. All warnings issued under this procedure will state clearly that the employee will be liable for further disciplinary action should their performance not improve or should there be a further breach of company rules or procedures. In the event of no further transgression occurring and the performance improving, the warning will be removed after a period of no more than 12 months and the employee’s file will be clear. The employee will also be advised of his/her right to appeal against disciplinary action taken.
This is an area where employer’s need to tread carefully, at all times fair procedures must be applied and the company’s’ policy regarding disciplinary steps and sanctions should be adhered to. Once these steps are followed there is no reason why an employer cannot dismiss an employee without repercussions. Most employers tend to fall down and lose Unfair Dismissal cases brought against them, not because they didn’t have disciplinary procedures in place, but because they did and they failed to actually follow them.
Bright Contracts has a very robust Discipline and Grievance Policy set out in its Handbook with all the relevant procedures that an employer needs. To download a free trial of Bright Contracts click here. To request an online demo of Bright Contracts, click here.