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 managers behave fairly and proportionately. This places significant requirements on managers 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 immediate 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. If the disciplining manager doesn't have the competence to conduct the disciplinary, he or she would be trained and supported, not replaced.
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 - and if there are no procedures, the ACAS guidelines should be used. The firm’s procedures must comply with current employment law and codes of practice. And managers 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 themselves investigate, where a manager or employee would be unable to be impartial.
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 morale and to business outcomes. 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, managers 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 group and the group 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 performacne 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.
Typically, managers need support when conducting disciplinaries.
We provide telephone help as the stages of the process ensue from investigation through to sanction and recovery.
Should it be needed, we will attend on site to train managers. We will also attend meetings as note-taker with the specific job of ensuring correct procedure.
And finally, where it would be inappropriate for the firm's managers or staff to investigate (because the situation is overly complex or because they are too close to events), we will conduct investigations. We have developed a very effective method of evidence gathering and distillation particularly useful in complex cases.