Discipline and Grievance


How to proceed

Different kinds of misconduct will obviously require different processes of investigation

Investigate incompetence

Substandard work can arise in two ways: through an employees conduct in, say, not paying sufficient attention to the task, or through a genuine inability to do the job to the required standard. In order to establish how the situation should be handled (because this will differ depending on the reason for the incompetence) it is essential to investigate all the circumstances. In some instances it will be fairly clear what the problem is and how it can be rectified – e.g. by further training or rearrangement of job duties. The most obvious need for an investigation is where an employee who has been a good worker in the past suddenly (or over a period of time) fails to perform adequately. The sort of factors, which should be considered, are:

  • Have performance standard changed recently?
  • Have new working methods been properly explained to the individual?
  • Is further training needed?
  • Has the employee reached a plateau and become disillusioned about future prospects?
  • Would a transfer/secondment help to re-motivate the employee?
  • Is there a health problem or domestic difficulty?

As mentioned at the outset, good employee relations depend upon fair treatment of employees. To be fair to them an employer must understand the background to a potential disciplinary matter – hence the overriding need for diligent investigation. Only when the facts are known will the appropriate course of action be readily identifiable.

That starts with the line manager – the informal and formal procedure

  • Informal – Counselling
  • Informal – Verbal
  • Formal – 1st Written Warning
  • Formal – 2nd Written Warning
  • Formal – 3rd Written Warning

How to conduct an absence counselling session Guidelines

Explain the purpose of the meeting. Discuss the absence history for the last 3 sessions.

Explain the Attendance Policy and provide a copy Absence exceeding 3 occasions in a rolling 12-month period (last 12 month to date) is a concern and maybe deemed unacceptable. Refer to your absence record and discuss the dates of and reasons for, absence. Link this back to the attendance policy, and the fact that if the individual has a further occasion of sickness, resulting in 4 occasions within a rolling 12 month period, the Company will view the employees absence record with concern and may deem it as unacceptable.

Ask the employee if they understand the impact of their sickness absence on the department and their colleagues. Discuss the implications with the employee.

Explain to the employee that if absence continues, and there is no underlying reason for this, then this could result in a verbal warning.

Explain that the meeting will be documented for monitoring purposes.

After the counselling session, document the conversation, using the standard memo attached, and forward a copy to Human Resources.

Where there are occasions of absence through sensitive issues of sickness it is essential that you seek advice from HR before conducting a counselling session with the individual.

Gathering all the relevant facts

Before the interview is arranged, the manager needs to be clear about the offence, what exactly is the reason for the interview, and what evidence
is needed to back up the case? For example, if the complaint is that the employee is continuously late for work, the manager should draw up a list of the days on which the employee was late and by how much. It would also be useful to obtain time keeping records of other employees to enable comparisons to be made e.g. swipe reports. Once these facts have been collected, the manager should bear in mind that the employee may have an excuse for his or her behaviour, and should be alert to any extenuating circumstances likely to be put forward. For example, if a female member of staff is continually late – this could be due to morning sickness. It is a good idea at this stage, while all the information is fresh in the memory, for the manager to make notes on all the important points that will need to be raised during the interview.

Verbal Warning

The verbal warning letter will follow a counselling session to heighten further the seriousness of the action against the employee. It forms part of the informal procedure. The manager must complete a standard file insert as detailed below which will be placed on the employees personnel file for twelve months.

Standard Letters and Notes


ID Number

This is to confirm, for future reference, that a meeting have been held on [DATE] in the presence of [NAMES].

At this meeting, we discussed the complaint against you [REASON OF COMPLAINT] and provided [NAME] with evidence to support this claim and an opportunity to respond to this complaint.

I informed [NAME] of the standards required by the company and that I required an immediate improvement in his/her conduct. He/she was also informed that this warning would remain effective for 12 months

(If the warning was issued for performance reasons, list standards set, objectives and timescale given for improvements)

[NAME] was informed that [should there be any recurrence of these circumstances or any other breach of discipline within the time limit of this warning] OR [should performance fail to improve] then formal disciplinary action is likely to be taken in accordance with the Company’s disciplinary procedure

[NAME] was advised that the Company’s disciplinary procedure was available for reference through the Divisional Office, their Human Resources Manager, the Training and Development Learning Resource Centre, or their induction manual – should they have joined in December 1995 or after

Signed [MANAGER]………………………………………………..

Name [PRINT MANAGER]………………………………………

Signed [INDIVIDUAL]………………………………………………

Name [PRINT INDIVIDUAL]…………………………………….

Notification of the disciplinary hearing

Ref.: Notice of disciplinary hearing


I confirm that in accordance with the Company’s disciplinary procedure, available for reference in your Head Office or through your HR Manager provided you received this manual by [DATE] or after, I require you to attend my office for a disciplinary hearing on [DATE] at [TIME]. I will be asking a member of the HR department or your line management to act as an observer on behalf of the Company and to take a note of the proceedings.

The purpose of the disciplinary hearing will be to discuss the following complaint that have been made against you:


You have a right to bring a current fellow employee, a member of the employee council or where there is a recognised trade union, the relevant shop steward for support or to assist you in presenting your case. You will of course be given every opportunity to state your case and to answer the complaints against you. You will be provided with a copy of all information upon which the Company will be basing their decision.

You will have a copy of the Company’s disciplinary policy in your in your induction manual. Please contact me immediately if for some reason you do not have a copy of that document. Please also confirm your attendance and let me know if you have any queries or questions concerning the conduct of the disciplinary hearing.

You should be aware that if the complaints against you are substantiated, then this will lead to disciplinary action in the form of a written warning being given to you. The level of written warning will depend on the seriousness of your conduct, taking into account any previous written warnings that you have received and that remain current.

Yours sincerely,


First written warning


Ref.: First written warning


I am writing further to the disciplinary hearing held on the [date of interview] in the presence of [name], who took a note of the proceedings, and your witness [NAME]. I heard evidence/read statements of [name] concerning the incident and considered LIST ANY DOCUMENTS CONSIDERING].

Your witness was given an opportunity to respond to the complaint as set out in the notice of hearing dated [DATE]. My decision concerning the conduct/incident is as follows:

(Set out the conduct or issue, explaining what your decision was in relation to the matter. Ensure consistency with the notice of disciplinary hearing letter)

I informed you at the hearing that I required an immediate improvement in your conduct and that this warning would remain effective on your file for 12 months.

Attached to this letter is a detailed list of those areas where an immediate improvement is required. Your conduct will be reviewed against the information contained in the list in 3 months time.

If there is any recurrence of these circumstances or any other breach of discipline within the time limit of this warning, then further disciplinary action will be taken in accordance with the Company’s disciplinary procedure.

Should you have any questions regarding the list, this letter or indeed, the standards of performance expected of you, then you should contact your Line manager or myself, who will be happy to assist you.

In accordance with the Company’s disciplinary procedure, available for your reference in your Head Office or through you HR Manager, you have a right to appeal against this decision. If you wish to invoke your tight to appeal then please let me know in writing, stating the principle reasons for you appeal within 5 working days of receipt of this letter.

Yours sincerely,


Suspension pending as investigation


Ref.: Suspension with pay


Following your investigation interview with [WITNESS] I confirm that you were suspended from duty on full pay until [DATE], in accordance with [PARAGRAPH] of the company’s disciplinary policy available for your reference in your Head Office or your HR Manager. You received this manual [DATE].

You have been suspended for the following reason:


I will be conducting a thorough investigation into these allegations and if proven, they will constitute a serious disciplinary offence or gross misconduct. I hope to be able to conclude my investigations within 5 working days and I shall writ to you again to inform you whether I will be taking formal disciplinary action against you.

This suspension does not prejudge the matter or my conclusions but reserves the position whilst investigations are conducted, During your suspension you should not visit the company or any other promises of the company such as [LIST].

Yours sincerely,


General Note

Where warning is being given for poor performance in duties, then the employee must be given a written schedule of those areas where immediate improvement is required or those tasks which he must achieve within a specified time. If no improvement has taken place, then obviously further disciplinary action may be appropriate, The minimum time in which you would expect someone to improve their position would be 1-3 months depending on the type of tasks being set or the conduct in question. ‘Some thins cannot be improved overnight. If the person continues to fail to perform, then the length of time in between warnings can be decreased, so long as fair and reasonable. It is insufficient to simply refer them to notes made in their appraisal. Most unfair dismissals in relation to performance related cases arise where the individual claims that he/she was never made fully aware of the areas where improvement or change was required and not given sufficient opportunity to improve.

Some advices for the disciplinary interview


Set up
Clear of distraction / no interruptions
Divert telephone / hand over pager

Body language

Attentive, not confrontational
Eye contact
Tone of voice

Dealing with reaction red herrings

Investigate where applicable

Note taking

Your witness
Notes should be typed up (original copies kept) and sent out with warning letter

Dealing with reaction: aggressive

Be prepared with facts
Recognise reaction
Broken record technique

Dealing with reaction: upset

either party may leave the
room Reschedule meeting

Where accompanied

Ascertain witness or representative
Not a three way conversation


Advice from note taker
Final briefing, summing up, decision, etc

Some more Guidelines

  • Identify the disciplinary issue.
  • Obtain copies of relevant documentation from personnel file.
  • Read Disciplinary, Appeal, and Grievance Procedures.
  • Contact HR regarding disciplinary issue, who will then advice you of the course of action to be taken.
  • Identify investigations that need to be carried out and ensure they have taken place before disciplinary hearing.
  • Obtain statements from relevant witnesses and supporting evidence.
  • Organise a room for hearing, make arrangements for note maker
  • Send out notice of Disciplinary Hearing letter, using standard letters and provide the employee with all documentation, reports, statements etc. that will be relied upon during the hearing.
  • Plan the conduct of the hearing and arrange for relevant witnesses to be available at the hearing.
  • Establish whether the employee is to call any relevant witnesses to give evidence on their behalf. Confirm the employee will be attending.
  • Review all the documentation, prior disciplinary history, witness statements, other relevant reports, and procedures.

The Meeting

  • Greet the employee and introduce the attendances.
  • Confirm the employee has received notice of hearing letter and how the meeting will take place.
  • Summarise allegations and ensure the employee has the opportunity to put their case forward.
  • Adjourn at any time if: Further investigation or more time is needed, to deal with situations of confrontation or distress.
  • Ask the employee after adjournment if they have any further questions or anything further to add.
  • Confirm decision will be in writing.
  • Confirm to the employee that they have the right to appeal the decision upon receipt of the letter. Respond within [days]
  • Meeting concluded
  • Ensure that all copies of all documentation are placed on the employees file.