Everyone is capable of making mistakes in the workplace and this could result in disciplinary action. Alternatively, an employee may not be happy with an aspect of their employment, in which case they could raise a grievance.
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In order for a business to operate effectively, employers have to set standards for performance and conduct. Usually these rules will be detailed in the contract of employment or staff handbook. Minor misconduct or unsatisfactory performance is best dealt with informally but a written overview should be recorded.
If formal action is required, what action is reasonable or justified depends on the particular circumstances. Employers are required to deal with issues promptly, fairly and consistently. Furthermore, employers are under a duty to investigate any issues or accusations fully to gather and establish the facts of the case.
If an employee is disciplined and a formal discipline meeting is arranged, the employee should be provided with the facts of the case and permitted to put their response forward. Employees have the right to be accompanied at any formal disciplinary meeting and to appeal against any formal decision made.
The discipline meeting should be held without unreasonable delay but enough time to allow the employee to prepare for the meeting. At the meeting, the employer should explain the complaint that has been made against the employee and go through any appropriate evidence.
The employee should be permitted to answer any allegations made, they should be given reasonable opportunity to ask questions, present evidence and call any relevant witnesses. If the employer or employee wish to call a witness, they should give advance notice prior to the disciplinary hearing.
If an employee believes that the disciplinary action taken against them is wrong or unjust, they should be permitted to appeal the decision. An appeal may be held on various grounds including further or new evidence, inconsistency of the decision etc.
The appeal should be heard without unreasonable delay. The employee should initially raise their appeal in writing to the employer. It is advised that the appeal meeting is carried out with a manager that has not previously been involved in the disciplinary procedure.
Again, the employee has a statutory right to be accompanied at an appeals hearing. The companion may be a fellow employee or a trade union representative. Usually, the employee should make a reasonable request to the employer to be accompanied.
A grievance is a concern, problem or complaint raised by an employee. This could be due to concerns with their work load, work conditions or relationships with colleagues. An employee may feel that they are being bullied or harassed.
If an employee has a grievance, they should inform the employer of the nature and issues of the grievance promptly. It is advised that the grievance is initially resolved informally to nip it in the bud.
However, if the employee feels that the grievance cannot be resolved informally, the employer should arrange a formal meeting without unreasonable delay and necessary investigations should be conducted to establish the facts of the case. The employee can be accompanied at the meeting.
In any event the employer should have a grievance policy in writing, either in the contract of employment or staff handbook. All staff should be aware of the grievance procedure.
If an employee raises any grievances, a grievance meeting should be arranged to deal with the matter. The employer must arrange for a formal meeting to be held without unreasonable delay. At the meeting, the employee should explain their grievance and how they believe it should be resolved. The employer should consider adjourning the meeting to conduct any necessary investigations but should inform the employee as to when they will expect to receive a response if one cannot be made at the time of the hearing.
Although the ACAS code is not binding, it does provide extensive information on discipline and grievance policies. If a matter is taken to the Employment Tribunal, the Employment Judge can reduce or increase an award of compensation in relation to whether the employer/employee has reasonable followed the ACAS Code of Practice.