All managers have the right to discipline their staff. But disciplinary management is extra-ordinary, moving beyond normal day-to-day informal management procedures. Disciplining staff correctly, with managed risk, takes training and experience. Managers who don’t have the skills and knowledge required to conduct a risk-controlled disciplinary should seek expert help from firms like TimelessTime.
TimelessTime consultants have managed disciplinaries for all levels of staff, including directors. They’ve managed all manner of offence complexity. Here are some of the issues we’ll engage with.
Employees enter an employment agreement with their firms. Part of that agreement is that, where necessary, they will succumb to the firm’s disciplinary code.
But the law assumes the employee is weak and demands that the firm and its management behave fairly and proportionately. This places significant requirements on management to follow fair procedure and make fair decisions.
Disciplinary meetings are not courts of law. Decisions are made based on ‘reasonable belief’ that events occurred. Disciplinary meetings have a special format but they are part of good management. They must be conducted by the line manager with support from an HR consultant or HR Manager. And the employee alleged to have breached the firm’s disciplinary code can often be accompanied.
Disciplinary management is unpleasant for managers. But it is an essential element of their job, used when normal management fails, to effect the necessary corrective action.
The key to successful disciplinary management is process. Alleged offences must be investigated correctly. Meetings must be called correctly, with exactly the right language used in communications. Meetings must be run exactly right. The firm’s procedures must be followed. The firm’s procedures must comply with current employment law and codes of practice. And management must behave proportionately and fairly.
Failure in any aspect places the firm at risk of successful tribunal claim by the employee and substantial financial award made against the firm.
Managers will want to investigate the allegations. The investigation is one of the most critical aspects of disciplinary management.
Investigation is generally best done by another manager or employee – use of private investigators or solicitors would likely be viewed as heavy-handed. HR consultants such as TimelessTime can be used, either to support an in-house investigator or to investigate, where a manager or employee would be inappropriate.
Sanctions, assuming a decision goes against the employee, could range from verbal warning to dismissal. Sanctions must be proportionate. Making and communicating the right decision is tricky, requiring a robust procedure and fair weighing of the evidence.
Managers launching disciplinary action must remember that whatever happens, damage will result to the team and to the firm. Disciplinary action is therefore not to be taken lightly. Nonetheless, every so often it’s the only option left.
In parallel with the disciplinary action management must plan to bolster commitment and engagement in all staff. Once the disciplinary action is concluded with the offending employee, they must be rehabilitated within their team and the team must be motivated to recover its performance.
If the offending employee has been dismissed, management must work with those remaining to ensure that there are no further issues and that motivation returns. No manager wants to repeat disciplinary action again and again. Care must be taken therefore to ensure that, if disciplinary is needed, it’s done once and it’s effective first time.