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How to write a disciplinary policy – a small business guide

2-minute read

Disciplinary policy
Zach Hayward-Jones

Zach Hayward-Jones

27 October 2023

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As a small business, you’ll need a clear disciplinary policy to ensure a fair and consistent working environment for your employees.

Your disciplinary and grievance procedure should set out what’s acceptable and unacceptable behaviour, and what happens when rules are broken.

What is a disciplinary policy?

A disciplinary policy explains the procedure to follow when an employee’s standard of behaviour drops, for reasons such as:

  • poor timekeeping
  • bullying or harassing other members of staff
  • poor standard of work
  • taking time off without permission

Your disciplinary hearing letter, on the other hand, is an employee’s invitation to attend a meeting to discuss their performance, conduct, or attendance.

When an employee’s conduct or attendance is lacking, you should have a written policy to let them know what disciplinary action you can take against them.

Treating employees fairly

The rules you create make sure your individual employees are treated fairly and consistently. They’ll usually explain the whole disciplinary procedure – from informal warnings to final disciplinary action, including dismissal.

As well as your written policy, there’s an Acas disciplinary procedure code of practice you should follow.

The disciplinary process varies from organisation to organisation, so this customisable template should help you lay down your own rules. Remember, they should be clearly communicated to employees in the policy or staff handbook.

What does a disciplinary policy letter cover?

It covers the disciplinary procedure that happens when you need to notify an employee they should improve their performance, conduct, or attendance.

All businesses should have a procedure in place for:

  • informal warnings
  • investigation
  • criminal charges, where the employee’s conduct is part of a criminal investigation
  • disciplinary meetings and the employee’s right to be accompanied to them
  • the stages of disciplinary action
  • when an employee is found guilty of gross misconduct
  • an employee appealing against a decision

Disciplinary actions

Disciplinary decisions can range from no action to demotion or dismissal.

You need to state what you consider gross misconduct, as your policy needs to include them. They’re breaches so serious it’s likely to lead to dismissal without notice – such as theft, gross negligence, or physical violence.

What is a disciplinary hearing letter?

After an investigation into the employee’s conduct, you may need to invite them to a disciplinary meeting. You can use a disciplinary hearing template as the basis of this invitation.

It’s important to remember that you’ll need to give the employee 48 hours’ notice of the disciplinary hearing so they can prepare.

Along with the hearing letter, you might want to enclose:

  • the code of conduct
  • the disciplinary procedure
  • contract of employment
  • witness statements
  • any other evidence

What happens at a disciplinary hearing meeting?

At the meeting, you can explain to the employee why you’ve called a disciplinary hearing.

You can use the meeting to put your case forward and go through any evidence you have.

Your employee should then be able to answer the allegations made against them and ask any questions they have about the case.

If either side has witnesses, they can be called to the meeting to give evidence. Meanwhile, if your employee brings a companion such as a trade union representative to the disciplinary hearing, they can talk to them throughout.

Disciplinary hearing questions – what needs to be covered?

At the start of a disciplinary hearing, you should ask the employee some introductory questions, such as:

  • do you know why this meeting is taking place?
  • have you received details of the allegations in writing?
  • do you understand the allegations?
  • do you have access to the company’s disciplinary procedure?
  • do you understand that this hearing could result in a disciplinary action (such as dismissal)?

Remember, your employee has the right to be accompanied to the meeting by a colleague, workplace trade union member, or trade union employee.

At the end of the meeting, you’ll need to explain to the employee what happens next and the expected timeframe. You’ll then need to take some time to consider your final decision.

Do you have any unanswered questions for creating a disciplinary policy for your business? Let us know in the comments below.

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Photograph: Andrii Yalanskyi/stock.adobe.com
Zach Hayward-Jones

Written by

Zach Hayward-Jones

<span style='font-size: undefined;'>Zach Hayward-Jones is a Copywriter at Simply Business, with seven years of writing experience across entertainment, insurance, and financial services. With a keen interest in issues affecting the hospitality and construction sector, Zach focuses on news relevant to small business owners. Covering industry updates, regulatory changes, and practical guides. </span>

We create this content for general information purposes and it should not be taken as advice. Always take professional advice. Read our full disclaimer

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