DisciplinaryOver the last couple of months there’s obviously been something in the air, as we seem to have been dealing with lots of tricky people problems, ranging from redundancy appeals to dismissals.

Now dealing with disciplinary issues is probably one of the less attractive tasks for a manager or business owner.  Some people policies are about improving productivity, creating stronger morale, and ensuring workers are happy and fulfilled in their roles. Disciplinary though, at least on the surface, is about what to do when things go wrong and employees aren’t living up the expectations you’ve set.

The reality of the matter though is whilst it might be a difficult part of managing people, it’s absolutely ESSENTIAL you have robust policies and procedures in place to deal quickly and efficiently with any issues that might arise.

In extreme circumstances, neglecting these areas of your business could lead to you having to deal with costly and reputation-damaging employment tribunals.  You can avoid legal action by making sure you’ve got your bases covered, and that you aren’t making some of the common mistakes that the team @GoldHR see all too often!

So over the next couple of weeks, we’re going to share with you the top 10 disciplinary mistakes that you need to AVOID, and give you the information you NEED to make sure your HR practices bring about the results your looking for and not leave you having sleepless nights.

Now I’m not saying this will happen, but once we get started, you might find your not doing things quite right, but DON’T panic.  Recognising your mistakes is the first step towards making changes.  Some areas you’ll be able to fix right away, and others might require a longer-term approach.

So are you ready, well let’s get stuck in. 

 1.  Not having a clearly communicated disciplinary policy

Let’s start with the basics.  Do you actually have a disciplinary policy that clearly states the process employees will go through if the disciplinary procedure is required?  If so, does it have enough detail and guidance?  Are all eventualities explained?  And, most importantly are your employees familiar with it?  Do they even know where it lives?

This may seem very simple, but you’d be surprised by the number of businesses we work with @GoldHR who fall at this very first hurdle.

Though this might be one of the most basic mistakes, it’s also one that’s really easy to fix.  We would suggest you work with your HR expert (or an HR Consultant, if you don’t have expertise in-house) to get a policy in place that covers all the key areas.  Once you’ve got a policy that works for your business, you’ll need to consult with your employees to ensure it’s fair.  You’ll also need to think about upskilling your managers so they can confidently deal with a disciplinary situation in practical terms.  And finally, consider how you’ll communicate the key details clearly to your workforce.

Once it’s in place, as with all people policies, review it regularly to make sure it’s fit for purpose and up to date with current legislation.

Sounds like a lot to do, but rest assured it’s not that scary.

2.  Not dealing with issues in a timely manner

When disciplinary problems crop up they need to be dealt with quickly and we are talking within weeks here rather than months.  You need to do all you can to get things resolved as quickly as possible and there are several reasons for this.

Firstly, being subject to disciplinary action can be extremely stressful.  You don’t want to be dragging out the process and causing more worry than is necessary.  It’s bad for morale, and can cause problems for the employee that could so easily be avoided.

Secondly, if the case ends up going to a tribunal, it’ll help your case if you can show action was taken to resolve matters within a realistic timeframe.

Of course, this doesn’t mean you should cut corners or rush to a resolution.  You need to consider each situation on it’s own merits.  Some will be more complicated than others, and naturally take longer.

3.  Ignoring certain parts of available evidence

Sometimes bias can inevitably creep into the disciplinary process.  You may have reason to believe the employee is in the wrong, and this could have an impact on the way you manage the case.  You might feel inclined to consider the evidence against the individual, and pass over anything that may support their viewpoint or version of events.

I can’t stress this enough but it’s vitally important that you act IMPARTIALLY, and consider EVERYTHING that you have available.  Remember you could be wrong in your assumptions, and the employee has a right to a FAIR process.

Make the employee aware of any evidence that you intend to use in a hearing and give them a copy (if it’s appropriate), so they have the opportunity to prepare a defence.

4.  Handing the task over to managers who don’t have the right skills

It’s likely there will be several people involved in the disciplinary process.  This includes gathering of evidence, the disciplinary meeting, and so on.  Make sure you not giving these tasks to people who don’t have the expertise required.

Consider whether your managers are capable of carrying out the process in the right way, and if they might need some additional support.  This could be in the form of training, coaching, or some simple refresher sessions.

Again, this isn’t a one-off task.  You need to monitor and assess your managers capabilities in this area.  You could make it part of their performance indicators, and regularly assess how issues are handled.

5.  Not recording the process

This is probably one of the MAIN areas most managers and business owners are rubbish at – keeping notes of what has happened.  We often get calls from clients who have an issue with an employee.  It’s been going on for sometime, but there are no written records to refer back to.

It is absolutely VITAL you keep records throughout every stage of the process, right from the very start.  This includes making a note of any evidence, taking minutes in meetings, gathering written statements, and so on.

This might sound like I am teaching you to suck eggs, but keep your documentation organised and confidential.  You might need the information again at a later date and you need to know exactly where to find it.

That’s it for now.  Next week we’ll share the other five mistakes employers make when dealing with disciplinary matters and what you can do to make sure it doesn’t happen to you.

If you’re dealing with a disciplinary matter for the first time or you’ve made mistakes in the past and what to make sure you don’t do it again, talk to the team @GoldHR.  Just click the link below to book a no-obligation consultation call with us NOW and see how we can help you get it right.  


Alternatively if you’d like us to take a look at your disciplinary policy and give you some honest feedback on whether it’s fit for purpose or might need a bit more work, just send a copy through to us at sam@goldhr.co.uk and we’ll take a look.