Disciplinary rules tell employees what their employer expects of them in relation to their behaviour and conduct in the workplace.
If an employee breaks these rules employers will generally use a disciplinary procedure to deal with the misconduct.
Cases of minor misconduct and unsatisfactory performance are usually best dealt with informally.
This could entail a quiet word of caution or encouragement from the employer to improve the employee's conduct or performance.
If this fails to produce satisfactory improvement the employer may decide to take formal action and the Statutory Dismissal and Disciplinary procedure introduced in April 2005 provides employers with a framework to do so.
Since the introduction of the statutory procedure in April 2005 all employers, regardless of how many employees they have, must provide information on any disciplinary and grievance procedures applicable to employees.
These procedures apply only to employees but not to workers. Sub-contractors, casual workers or freelance workers are not usually employees.
The standard DDP is a three-step process:
Step One: the employer must set out in writing a statement of the employee's alleged conduct, capability or other circumstances that has led to the proposed disciplinary action being taken.
The employee must also be invited to a meeting to discuss the Step 1 letter without unreasonable delay and be informed of their right to be accompanied at this meeting.
The Labour Relations Agency code of practice states that if the employee has difficulty reading, or if English is not their first language, the employer should explain the content of the statement to the employee orally.
Step Two: the employer must invite the employee to a meeting at a reasonable time and place so that issues raised in the Step 1 letter and the basis for the allegations made in it can be discussed.
The employee must then be given an opportunity to consider their response to the allegations and take all reasonable steps to attend the meeting.
After the meeting the employer must, without unreasonable delay, inform the employee of their decision and offer the employee the right to appeal the decision if they are not satisfied with it.
Step Three: if the employee intends to appeal they must inform their employer of their wish to do so.
The employee must make their request for an appeal within a reasonable time of receiving the employer's decision.
The employer must then invite the employee to attend a further meeting where the employee's appeal against their employer's decision can be heard.
The employee must take all reasonable steps to attend the appeal meeting.
After the appeal hearing, the employer must communicate their final decision to the employee without unreasonable delay.
The legislation does not state what is considered 'reasonable' in relation to the various steps in the grievance process, however the Labour Relations Agency code of practice gives suggestions as to what may be deemed reasonable in certain situations.
While the statutory dismissal and disciplinary procedure does not legally apply to disciplinary action, including oral and written warnings, it is nonetheless deemed good practice to do so and may ensure consistency throughout all stages of the disciplinary process if the employer applies this procedure.
To facilitate resolution of disciplinary/dismissal matters covered by the 3-step procedure, the Industrial Tribunal may, in certain circumstances, extend the normal time limits for submitting claims by an additional three months.
Further information on the statutory disciplinary and grievance procedures is available from your local CAB or contact the Labour Relations Agency for further advice and a copy of the code of practice on disciplinary and grievance procedures, on 028 9032 1442 or download from www.lra.org.uk.
Lucy Cochrane is an information and policy officer with Citizens Advice.