Disciplinary procedure: step by step

Step 2: Following a fair procedure

If the employer feels they need to start a disciplinary procedure, they must make sure they follow a full and fair procedure throughout.

This is for the protection of the employee, the employer and their business.

The importance of following a fair procedure

The Acas Code of Practice for disciplinary and grievance procedures is the minimum a workplace must follow.

You might have your own code or policy with some differences that better suits your workplace.

Although the Acas Code is not the law, if a disciplinary case reaches an employment tribunal, judges will take into consideration whether the employer has followed the Acas Code in a fair way.

The Acas Code mainly applies to those with employee employment status. But to keep good working relationships, it’s a good idea if employers follow the same fair procedure for all workers.

If anything similar has happened before

It’s a good idea for employers to check whether your workplace has dealt with a similar situation before.

To avoid accusations of unfair treatment, employers should follow the procedure and policy in the same way for each disciplinary case.

They should gather evidence and make a decision based on what they know about each case.

Keep talking

It’s important throughout the procedure for the employer to keep talking with both the employee being disciplined and any other staff affected.

Clear, regular and confidential communication can help avoid:

  • misunderstandings
  • a drop in work morale
  • stress or other mental health issues
  • further action, for example the employee raising a grievance
  • legal action further down the line

The employer should keep all personal information confidential.

Looking after employees’ wellbeing and mental health

Going through a disciplinary procedure can be very stressful, so it’s important that employers consider the wellbeing and mental health of their employee.

Looking out for the employee's wellbeing and offering support can help prevent:

  • absence
  • mental health issues arising
  • existing mental health issues getting worse

For example, as well as regular communication, the employer could arrange any meetings in a more private and comfortable location if this would help the employee.

See more advice on supporting an employee with a mental health condition.

If the employee raises a grievance

If the employee raises a grievance during the disciplinary procedure, the employer can pause the disciplinary and deal with the grievance first.

It might be appropriate to deal with both at the same time if the grievance and disciplinary cases are related.

See our guide to dealing with workplace grievances.

If the employee wants to resign

The employee might feel they want to resign or “jump before they’re pushed” when they are facing a disciplinary.

This could risk the employee later claiming ‘constructive dismissal’ at an employment tribunal. They can only do this if they have worked for the organisation for 2 years or more.

The employer should try and talk through any concerns with the employee and encourage them to complete the disciplinary procedure first.

Employees can find out more about resigning from a job.

Find out more about ending employment.