What happens if I need to discipline an employee?

Working relationships between employers and their staff can be unpredictable, so it probably goes without saying that at some point or another, you are going to have to initiate a difficult conversation with an employee.

First and foremost, before any issues have even the chance to arise, business owners and line managers should be regularly reviewing their processes and policies for dealing with members of staff who aren’t quite hitting the mark or have acted in an unreasonable manner.

This helps to provide certainty and understanding for both parties from the start and will iron out the chance of overreactions or arguments in the event that something does go wrong.

Having water-tight workplace policies in place is essential to ensuring that your employees know where they stand. Workers should be participating in regular performance reviews, particularly in instances where the nature of a job role or workload is consistently changing, while the definitions of misconduct and the processes that will be followed in the event of such behaviour should be clearly documented in staff handbooks and employment contracts, ensuring that unnecessary tensions are not created by a worker being hauled into a meeting out of the blue.

In the unfortunate circumstances that you need to discipline an employee over misconduct, bad behaviour or consistently poor quality of work, the important thing to remember from the outset is that every situation (and each worker) is different, and your approach needs to reflect that whilst maintaining consistent procedure.

For example, you might need to be extra careful if confronting an employee with a timid personality about the quality of their work, as you will want to make sure they don’t feel intimidated, which could exacerbate the situation.

This is incredibly important, as – it is crucial that employers handle such issues properly in order to avoid the likelihood of a workplace dispute or Employment Tribunal claim arising.

Employers should adopt a strategy of transparency and honesty at all times, ensuring that employee handbooks clearly outline the expectations which the business has for its workers.

In the event that you feel it is necessary to take disciplinary action against an employee, it is vital that you follow the disciplinary procedure suggested by the ACAS code of practice and think very carefully about whether a dismissal is really the right solution before making any rash decisions.

If you need advice with regards to any of the issues raised above, please contact  Andrew Firman or Kate Boguslawska to find out how our expert team can help.