Dealing with disciplinary matters is often seen as one of the most difficult parts of managing people and I think we can all agree, the least attractive!

Disciplinaries, on the surface, are used when corrective action needs to be taken after things go wrong and your employees aren’t living up to expectations. In some cases, issues can be dealt with by having a discreet word and reminding the employee of the standards that are expected of them. However, you should consider disciplinary action if there are repeated or serious misconduct issues.

The Disciplinary procedure and ACAS

The ACAS Code of Practice for managing disciplinaries and grievances sets out the minimum standard of fairness that an employer should follow when handling these issues in the workplace. They are used by employment tribunals when deciding whether or not an employer has acted fairly and in the correct way.

Establish the facts

Before deciding on whether disciplinary action should be taken, a robust investigation should be carried out. This needs to be completed without reasonable delay to establish the facts and to determine whether it is a disciplinary issue or if the situation can be resolved in other, less formal ways.

Inform the employee

If it is decided that the employee should go through the disciplinary procedure, they should be notified of the meeting in writing, with a minimum of 48 hours’ notice and the invitation should clearly outline the allegations and the potential outcome of the meeting.

Don’t forget to provide the employee with an investigation pack… If you intend to use evidence in the disciplinary hearing, then the employee needs to see it!

Allow the employee to be accompanied at the hearing

Under the ACAS Code of Practice workers have the right to be accompanied by a companion. This could be a fellow worker, a trade union representative or an official employed by a trade union. It’s important to keep in mind that a companion is allowed to sum up the employees case and ask questions on behalf of the employee.  A companion does not have the right to answer questions on the employee’s behalf or address the hearing if the employee does not want them too!

This information should be included in the employee’s letter inviting them, to the disciplinary.

Informing employees of their right to appeal the decision

From time-to-time employees may not agree with the outcome of the hearing, so in order for the process to be deemed fair, the employee must be given the opportunity to challenge the decision that has been made. The appeal should, ideally, be dealt with by a manager who has not been involved in the case and is able to be objective, ensuring the appeal is dealt with fairly.

Did you know that failing to follow the ACAS code will be considered in an employment tribunal claim and can be counted against you?

So how do you ensure that a fair and consistent disciplinary procedure is followed?

By having a robust Disciplinary Policy which clearly outlines the process that will be followed and the rights of the employee. It is important to ensure your policy aligns with The ACAS Code of Practice and outlines all potential outcomes when going through the process.

We would also recommend that any managers that may be expected to conduct investigations and disciplinary hearings are competent and familiar with the process. In addition to be being fully aware of your company’s policy and process, training can be undertaken in how to conduct and manage a fair internal investigation, including gathering and assessing evidence and how to present findings.


As usual, our friendly , expert HR Team are available to provide you with any support that you may require in regard to the disciplinary process, including guidance on policy documents and training for managers.