Taking Disciplinary Action

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Taking Disciplinary Action


Written by Sue Berry on 22nd July 2017. Revised 25th March 2020.

2 min read

Firms take disciplinary action when an employee does something that is considered to constitute unacceptable behaviour. There should be rules in place to assist managers in dealing with wayward employees, and also to let employees know what is, and is not, acceptable behaviour.

In dealing with discipline of employees, the most important thing is that you must follow your own company’s documented disciplinary process.

Role of ACAS

ACAS, the Arbitration Service, has developed a disciplinary code of practice. Whilst you would not contravene employment law if the ACAS code were not followed, a tribunal would look to the code when making their decisions. Where an employee wins a claim related to inappropriate disciplinary action, their award (payable by their company) could be raised by as much as 25% if the code was not followed.

On the one hand all firms should have their own company-specific disciplinary procedures, linked to the context of the local work environment. On the other hand, those disciplinary procedures should, at least, embrace the ACAS Code.

Disciplinary Versus Improvement

Discipline and improvement are very different, albeit linked, concepts. Discipline is about correcting wayward behaviour. Performance improvement is about changing the task-related and general competencies and behaviours exhibited by an employee.

TimelessTime recommends that firms should have a separate performance improvement process that provides a more positive way of managing the poor performance of an employee. Whilst the disciplinary process can be used, lack of ability to perform (through lack of competency or task-related behaviour) is different to wilfully taking unacceptable action. Use of a disciplinary process for performance improvement sends negative messages to the employee when positive, encouraging messages are needed.

This support article deals only with discipline. Use the search bar to find further information on performance management and dealing with capability issues.

Managing the Disciplinary Process

Before taking any action you must ensure that you understand the process and that you follow it. Use our support documents and template letters to help in your preparation[1].

  • These documents are only available to SUPPORT clients.