Handling disciplinaries with confidence

Posted on 3rd October 2018

Nobody likes a disciplinary. Both sides of the table are uncomfortable places to be. But if you are the disciplining manager, whether you have done them before or not, there are some key points to remember that will help them to run as smoothly as possible and ensure that you are comfortable and confident in the outcome.

Surprisingly as a team we have been involved in quite a few disciplinaries. And although no two are the same, here are my top tips for getting you through.


Preparation, preparation…

All disciplinaries should be dealt with within a reasonable timescale and, if you have a policy, within the timescale set out in it. So, my first tip is… don’t ignore it!

There needs to be an investigation. I don’t mean that we need to be all CSI on the situation, but the issue does need to be investigated. If the disciplinary is around absence, are the dates correct? Do you have all the appropriate return to work interviews etc.? If the disciplinary is about a specific act, were there witnesses? Do you have statements? Are they signed? In small companies it may mean that you have investigated the issue and will be chairing the disciplinary. However, if the issue has been investigated separately, ensure that it is robust.

The investigation of the issue is the basis for any disciplinary and so needs to be handled correctly. Read through the investigation report, ensure that you have the full story. If there are questions that you need to ask of the business, do this before you walk into the hearing. Not having the full picture will ensure that you have to adjourn and go and find information before you can continue. Who would want to make the process longer if they can help it?

Have a script. No, I don’t mean have a complete script and don’t deviate, but you can have a script that reminds you to discuss the key points such as the reason for the disciplinary, has the employee received copies of all the information you will be discussing, are they utilising their right to be accompanied?


Remain calm…

It sounds simple but can be difficult. We work with a lot of businesses where people have worked together a long time, there are personal relationships, or where there are family members are involved.  The disciplinary hearing is a meeting to discuss a specific issue; a space to discuss mitigating circumstances. Then, based on the facts, to make a decision as to whether a sanction should be given. It is a fact-based process, it isn’t personal and remembering that can be hard.


Write it down!

Please take notes of the hearing, please get them signed by all in attendance. You never know if you will need to rely on them in the future.

Follow up with a letter to make sure that you have confirmed the decision, and make sure you give the individual the right to appeal.

It may not be a fun process, but it can be less stressful than you think. And although there are more elements to the process, we can help to guide you through the pitfalls. If you think you need support or advice about the process, please feel free to call us.

Lindsay Baker Character
Written by:
Lindsay Baker
Head of HR