Disciplinary Procedures: Step By Step Guide For Your Business

what is a disciplinary
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You may come across acts of misconduct or improper behaviour from your employees every now and then. As a result, an employer may be required to follow a fair process to resolve the matter. You can manage difficulties and describe potential repercussions through a disciplinary procedure. If you fail to follow disciplinary procedures, you may face compensation penalties or reputational harm.

We’ll look at what a disciplinary procedure is, how to follow the code of practise, and how to manage a fair procedure in this tutorial.

What Is a Disciplinary Procedure?

A disciplinary procedure is a structured method for companies to deal with unsatisfactory employee behaviour. Employers in the United Kingdom must follow specified measures before terminating an employee to meet Acas regulations or those laid out on gov. uk while conducting disciplinary procedures. This will assist companies in avoiding large penalties if they are sued for constructive dismissal.

What is the Purpose of Disciplinary Procedures in the Workplace?

A disciplinary procedure in the workplace specifies how employee wrongdoing will be dealt with. This procedure is typically specified inside a policy and should be accessible to all employees, detailing what behaviours or performance difficulties may result in disciplinary action. Having disciplinary procedures in place helps to ensure that everyone is treated consistently, transparently, and fairly.

However, not all workplace difficulties necessitate such official action. In the first instance, an informal discussion about a problem may be suitable. The goal of this would be to explore how the problem can be remedied in the future and to emphasise any assistance that the employee may require. Communication skills are essential in our workplace interactions.

This could include further training, more effective one-on-ones, or any other support that both you and the employee believe will help promote a change in their performance or behaviour.

It depends on your workplace’s regulations and processes, but an informal talk like this would not always need the employer recording it unless they thought it necessary. If the problem persists, it may be necessary to pursue more formal disciplinary action.

A typical disciplinary procedure consists of multiple steps, with various possible results at the conclusion.

What are the UK Laws on Fair Disciplinary Procedures?

When an employee’s behaviour becomes inappropriate, you must deal with the situation in a fair and legal manner.

The ACAS Code of Practise on Disciplinary and Grievance Procedures must be followed by all employers. The Code of Practise is a governmental guideline that describes how to handle disciplinary issues publicly or informally.

Your company may already have disciplinary procedures in place. They should, nevertheless, represent the essential standards of the ACAS Code of Practise. For instance, how to:

  • Bring up a point of conduct.
  • Handle repeat offences.
  • Conduct an investigation into the situation.
  • Inform the employee of the problem.
  • Organise a disciplinary hearing.
  • Allow employees to challenge any official disciplinary decisions that are made.

Although following the Code is not a legal necessity, every employer must have a fair procedure in place. If you fail to follow fair procedures, you may face illegal dismissal by an employment tribunal (ET) under the Employment Rights Act 1996 (ERA).

What Are the Consequences of an Unfair Disciplinary Procedure?

You may wind up treating employees unfairly or discriminatorily if you do not have a fair procedure in place. In their defence, an employee may assert an unjust dismissal claim.

You should commence disciplinary actions if there is proof of egregious negligence or gross misbehaviour. This comprises initiating an inquiry, adhering to legal obligations, and obtaining a potential conclusion.

For example, the employer may be obliged to return the employee to their former employment role or pay compensation awards (which may be subject to a 25% increase based on the circumstances).

The Disciplinary Procedure: Step-by-Step  

Disciplinary processes follow a specific set of actions that must be completed in order. Employers in the United Kingdom can opt to conduct their own disciplinary proceedings based on the principles outlined in the Advisory Conciliation and Arbitration Service (Acas) code of practise, or they can follow Acas’s step-by-step disciplinary procedures.

The disciplinary process itself can be complicated, time-consuming, and even costly. As a result, putting in place a structure can assist preserve both employee and corporate welfare.

A fair and formal procedure consists of five steps:

  • The investigation process into the allegation.
  • Written communication which outlines the issue.
  • A disciplinary hearing to discuss the issue.
  • A final decision on appropriate disciplinary action.
  • The right to appeal the final verdict or disciplinary action.

Step #1: The investigation process

Every employer should conduct a disciplinary investigation first. The investigation is carried out to gather information and evidence about the situation. This contains the nature of the claim, who is involved (or affected), and what additional steps must be taken.

The inquiry findings are presented during an investigation meeting attended by all relevant parties. Each side should tell their side of the narrative and respond to the opposition’s questions. An investigation meeting may include interviews, the exchange of witness testimonies, and the cross-examination of evidence.

Employees are permitted to be accompanied to the disciplinary hearing. For instance, a coworker or a trade union representative. Remember, they are there to help you comprehend the case and clarify matters, not to represent you in court.

It is important to understand that an inquiry meeting is not the same as a disciplinary hearing.

Step #2: Written communication

The employee will then be notified of the proceedings and invited to a disciplinary hearing. This is typically accomplished through written communication, such as a disciplinary letter.

The letter should include the following information:

  • The nature of the allegation.
  • Provide enough detail about the procedures.
  • Outline methods for responding to the letter.
  • Include copies of written evidence and statements.

Your intention to hold a disciplinary hearing should be highlighted in the letter. You can now clarify the allegation to the employee, as well as the possible results. Only after the hearing should the disciplinary sentence be confirmed.

If the employee’s representative is unable to attend the hearing on the scheduled day, the meeting must be rescheduled. Their reasons for postponing the hearing must be reasonable, and the new date cannot be more than five working days after the original hearing date. Flexibility, on the other hand, is permitted and encouraged.

Step #3: The disciplinary hearing

You may convene the disciplinary hearing once you have completed the first two processes. The employer shall offer evidence and reports relevant to the allegation against the accused party at the hearing.

Every employee should be given the opportunity to present their case, ask questions, and submit their own results.

During the course of the proceedings, additional evidence or mitigating circumstances may emerge. The hearing may be rescheduled at a later date to give time to process the circumstances. An employee may speak with their representative about the situation. They cannot, however, answer questions or testify on behalf of the employee.

If an employee is repeatedly unable to work due to illness or disability, you should make changes to the process.

Step #4: The disciplinary decision

Once all of the facts and accounts have been presented, the disciplinary decision must be made.

The employer shall notify the employee in writing of the decision. Here are some instances of disciplinary actions:

No action

Some types of behaviour are seen as small or have mitigating conditions that diminish their “seriousness.”

You could decide here to take no further disciplinary action. In this scenario, you must still give a written record of the verdict. You should also indicate probable next steps if the behaviour occurs again.

Verbal warning

Some wrongdoing can be rectified with a quiet conversation in the office. When issues are not highly significant but must be addressed, a verbal warning is issued.

Through an informal dialogue with the employee, you can indicate what activities to do. Alternatively, give a verbal warning via a formal disciplinary procedure.

Written warning

While verbal warnings must be documented, they are not the same as written warnings. These are issued for more serious offenses or poor performance.

You could give your employees a first, second, or final written warning. Which one to issue is determined by the issue, the length of the warning, and the type of change necessary.

You might also implement a ‘three strikes’ system, in which an employee is fired after receiving a third written warning. This, however, may only be accomplished through correct termination procedures.

Final warning

After substantial wrongdoing or failure to acknowledge earlier warnings, a final written warning is delivered.

When terminating contracts or executing a demotion, these warnings are frequently utilised. You can only issue a final warning once the disciplinary investigation and written warnings have been completed.


If an employee commits gross misconduct, you may choose demotion as a form of disciplinary action. Demotion is seen as a reasonable alternative to dismissal, especially when the employee has been with the company for a long time.

Your disciplinary policy and employee contracts must both agree to this procedure. It should highlight any employment position changes as well as full pay entitlements.


If an employee is found to have committed major violations or has committed further misconduct (after several warnings), you may elect to dismiss them. Dismissal is the termination of an employee’s contract due to wrongdoing.

Every job contract, corporate handbook, and disciplinary policy should specify the rules for dismissal. In extreme circumstances of serious wrongdoing, an employer may even opt to fire an employee immediately. Employees lose PILON or notice period benefits when you proceed with summary dismissal owing to the nature of the allegation.

You must follow fair dismissal processes during a dismissal. If you do not, you may face a tribunal claim.

Step #5: The right to appeal

Employees may have the ability to appeal a disciplinary hearing judgment. This could be because they believe the decision is unfair or was made in error. A written appeal should be requested.

Anyone who was not present in the initial disciplinary hearing should not be present at the hearing. Employees can still be escorted to the appeal hearing. The ultimate outcome of the appeal should be communicated in writing as soon as possible.

Disciplinary Meeting Tips for Employers

The most effective approach to disciplinary procedures and meetings is to make them fair, reasonable, and polite. It may be a very emotional period for everyone concerned. Therefore, it is critical to maintain a cool, professional demeanor at all times.

Always follow your company’s policies and processes, and make sure the process aims to encourage a positive change in staff conduct and performance where appropriate.

There will be times when employees do not show up to meetings. This could be because they fail to show up or are absent due to illness. As an employer, you should make every attempt to provide your employees with the information and support they need to attend.

Those who are unable to attend should have their appointments rescheduled. If failure to attend scheduled meetings continues, there are numerous options available.

Following additional research, it may be decided to postpone the meeting until they return from sick leave, that stating their case in writing is the best line of action, or that they should hire a representation instead.

It may also be found that the employee is deliberately failing to attend; in this situation, the outcome of disciplinary action may need to be decided in their absence.

What Are the Steps in the Disciplinary Process?

The following actions should be done throughout any disciplinary process, according to Acas (the Advisory Conciliation and Arbitration Service):

  • Follow a fair procedure
  • Investigate thoroughly
  • Prepare for a hearing and hold one
  • Tell the employee about the outcome
  • Follow up after the disciplinary procedure.

How Many Stages Are in a Disciplinary Procedure?

A disciplinary procedure usually consists of four stages:

  • Verbal warning
  • Written warning
  • Final written warning
  • Dismissal.

What Is the Role of HR In a Disciplinary Hearing?

HR is critical throughout any disciplinary hearing. They serve as arbitrators, consultants, and guides to guarantee that the law is observed. HR is also responsible for maintaining objective and fostering excellent communication in order to get the best results for both individuals and the firm.

How Serious is Disciplinary Action?

It all depends on how severe the employer views the misconduct and whether it has a negative impact on the firm. It is critical that the employer conducts a comprehensive inquiry and can demonstrate the impact on the firm.

Does Disciplinary Go on Record?

A warning following a disciplinary will typically remain on your file for 6 months. However, it will be determined by the regulations and codes of conduct in place at each organisation.


Whatever the situation, every company must have disciplinary procedures in place. They help to ensure that employees understand what constitutes wrongdoing, as well as the potential penalties of breaking them.

If you do not behave fairly, you may face penalties, employee reinstatement, and reputational harm. This article has covered all you need to know about carrying out a disciplinary procedure.


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