Every Employer will need to deal with disciplinary and/or grievance matters at some point and it is essential that you have disciplinary and grievance procedures in place detailing the steps that will be followed. Not only will this ensure that everyone within the Organisation is aware of the process, it is a legal requirement for Employers to have such procedures in place.
This article explores the 5 key areas to assist Employers when handling disciplinary and grievance matters.
Step 1. Follow the Process
Whether it is the grievance process or the disciplinary process, there is always a process to follow. Do not underestimate the need to adhere to it as not only can decisions be overturned on appeal by failing to follow the correct process, if the employee has at least one year’s service and the matter proceeds to the Industrial Tribunal, there is also potential for a compensation pay out for failing to adhere to the correct process.
When the need arises to either investigate a disciplinary matter or an employee invokes the grievance process, ensure you review the Organisation’s disciplinary and grievance procedures and adhere to the procedures detailed within it. If for whatever reason the Organisation does not have such policies in place, or you feel these are outdated, you should consult and adhere to the LRA Code of Practice on Disciplinary and Grievance Procedures. By having a clear policy in place that all employees have access to, all employees should be familiar with it and therefore it will be easier to manage expectations throughout the process.
As an overview, the minimum requirements dictate that you should invite the employee to a meeting in writing, giving reasonable notice and providing the opportunity to be accompanied by a work colleague or trade union representative. At the meeting the employee should be able to present their case and refer to any evidence they feel is relevant to the matter at hand.
In the case of a disciplinary matter, the allegations should clearly be set out in the invite letter and the employee should be provided with any documentation that has been gathered to support the allegations or collated during the investigation process.
Step 2. Chairperson
From a review of the grievance or disciplinary matter, it is important that an appropriate Chairperson is appointed to undertake the process on behalf of the Organisation. The Chairperson should be suitable and capable of undertaking the process, taking into account the nature and complexity of the matter.
Usually it will be the employee’s Line Manager who undertakes the process, however if a grievance concerns the Line Manager, or in the case of a disciplinary matter, if the Line Manager has conducted the investigation, it would be more appropriate for a more senior member of staff to undertake the process.
Step 3. Understand the issue
Whether you are hearing a grievance or investigating a disciplinary matter, it is imperative that you understand the complaint. In the case of a grievance, the Chair should review the grievance letter and write down what further information you feel is needed to ensure you understand the detail of it. By meeting the employee with these questions, and ensuring these points are covered, you will ensure you understand the nature of the complaint and the employee has had the opportunity to fully discuss it.
In the case of a disciplinary, if you are asked to investigate the matter or chair the disciplinary meeting, ensure you have reviewed the documentation and understand the allegation and how the employee has breached policy so you are able to discuss the complaint with the employee.
By understanding the issue, your meeting with the employee will be meaningful so you can either make an informed decision on the matter, or clearly see what areas need further investigation. It will also demonstrate to the employee that you have given the matter the appropriate attention it deserves.
Step 4. Outcome Letter
Once you have completed all investigations into the matter and carefully considered all of the information, you will need to arrive at a fair and reasonable outcome. Once you have made this decision, it is advisable to write a detailed outcome to the employee detailing the decision and setting out the reasons why you have arrived at this outcome. It is advisable to address all points raised by the employee during the process and explain how you took the points into consideration when arriving at your decision.
In relation to a disciplinary process, should your decision be to issue a warning, you will need to set out what level the warning is at, the length of time it will be considered live and what improvement is expected.
With regards to a grievance process, an employee should be informed of the outcome of their complaint and whether or not their grievance has been upheld. Depending on the nature of the grievance, it may be appropriate to detail what action will be taken to resolve the complaint (for example is mediation appropriate to ensure employees can effectively work together).
The outcome should include the right of appeal if they are not happy with the decision.
Should you wish to, you can convene a meeting with the employee to deliver your decision and explain the reasons for this face to face however it is imperative that you also provide the outcome in writing.
Step 5. Right of Appeal
An employee will have the right of appeal should they disagree with the decision and provide their grounds for their appeal to the Appeal Chairperson. Wherever possible the Appeal Chair should be someone more senior than the Disciplinary/Grievance Chair and it should be someone who has not been involved in the process to date therefore making them impartial.
The process surrounding appeals should be followed, and the steps above should be adhered to. Once a decision is communicated to the employee regarding the appeal and detailing whether or not the appeal has been upheld, the employee should be informed the decision is final and there is no further right of appeal.
Think People Consulting Limited are hosting a full day workshop regarding Complex Grievance and Disciplinary Management on 22 November 2018. If you want to book your place, please contact us on 028 9031 0450 or email Niall.Brolly@thinkpeople.co.uk
By Ruth McAdam
Senior HR Consultant