Disciplinary & Grievance: What you need to know

Whether you’re in HR or people management, the chances are the disciplinary and grievance process will be one you’re familiar with. 

Over my career it’s something I’ve done 1000’s of times and I think it’s so important to know and understand the process properly. When we look at Employment Law and ACAS they provide some clear guidance. However, in reality, there are a lot of grey areas and like in life, it’s open to our own interpretation. We all do things differently within this guidance, and I’ve seen that play out many times, both across the many businesses I support and within other businesses.

That said, I do believe that if we nail the basics, you’ll have a successful journey for all concerned. So in this blog I’m gong to cover the 3 things you should focus on getting right, in order to perfect your process. 

Let’s start at the beginning, investigations. 

I cannot stress how important it is to complete a thorough investigation, and whilst it maybe tempting to skip this process, especially in cases where it can appear clear cut like when an employee is caught red handed stealing etc, you need to complete an investigation stage. Yes, it can be tempting to rush straight to a dismissal and close the issue down, I do get it, we want to resolve cases as quickly as possible, however, it can leave you open to future claims of unfair dismissal if the process isn’t completed properly.

Top TipComplete all stages of the process properly, starting with the opportunity to investigate the issues correctly.

I’m a huge fan of inviting people to investigation meetings by letter wherever possible. It gives you all time to prepare for the meeting and ensures no area is overlooked or missed. Now, there are times where you’ll want to investigate asap without notice, especially in examples like I gave above where theft or harassment is concerned. In those instances, you might want to investigate in the moment and then do further investigations later. That’s ok too, it’s about knowing what the best process is for the situation you’re dealing with. 

Top TipUse suspension of employees sparingly. There are obvious times it’s the only appropriate action( again in scenarios like theft/harassment etc) but it can be difficult to return to the office once the investigation is completed after a suspension. My advice would be to treat that action carefully and only use when it’s the right thing to do. If you need to, seek further advice.

Now, if you’re like me and find that most of your investigations are now completed online through zoom or teams for example, it’s important that you remain savvy. Whilst having a companion at the initial meeting isn’t required, in the subsequent meeting(s) there can be a work colleague or union rep in attendance. Be sure to check out who the attendees are and that they are appropriate for the meeting, I always like to ask for names ahead of any meeting so that I can do some research. 

Top TipClarify attendees at the start of any online meeting and ask for confirmation from all parties. Online it can be difficult to understand who is present if they’re hiding off camera, for example. Whilst you can’t always see the entire room, look for clues like eye contact, looking off camera, or body language it can be telling – I’ve had a handful of times where the person being interviewed was clearly getting some help from someone off camera!

Top TipMake sure you have paper trails, copies of evidence, eyewitness accounts. 

Make sure you have investigated properly, you have collated all the evidence at investigation stage, which can then be passed on to the disciplining officer. They might have to do further investigations depending on what has been said and it’s important to remember that the employee in question will have the ability to appeal any decision made at the disciplinary stage.

I could go on all day about the disciplinary and grievance process as there are so many elements to it, and if you’re looking for a more in depth understanding, then our CPD accredited course is for you. You can grab your copy from our online store here, and it comes with a lifetime access and updates, yes I’m that passionate about it! 

Let me leave you today with my top advice I give to those I coach in this process. 

Do make sure you complete the investigation stage thoroughly. 

Do your preparation. Have your paperwork, what you’ll say and the questions you’ll ask ready in advance.

Do listen to what is being said in the meeting and ask further questions to really dig into the matter.

Do make sure you’ve completed a full and thorough process.

Remember, whether you’re new or established at hearing a disciplinary or grievance process, it’s ok to be nervous or unsure. Take your time, whether that’s investigating all areas, or considering what has been said during the meetings. You are not on trial here and it’s so important you do a thorough investigation rather than a quick one. 

Disciplinary & Grievance: What you need to know