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Disciplinary issues, Grievances & Dismissals

Statutory Disciplinary and Grievance Procedures – a Must for all Employers

Since October 2004 all employers have had to have had disciplinary and grievance procedures meeting the minimum standards required under the legislation. These procedures must be set out in writing and issued to all employees. The rules set out a standard procedure which should be followed from the outset and a modified procedure which should be followed where the employer has omitted to follow the standard procedure and is seeking to rectify the situation.

Disciplinary Procedure

Standard Procedure

This minimum 3-stage procedure will need to be followed where disciplinary action and/or dismissal (including redundancy) is contemplated:

Stage 1: Statement of Grounds for Action and Invitation to Meeting

The employer must prepare a written Statement of Grounds of Action setting out the employee’s alleged conduct or characteristics, or other circumstances, which lead him to consider dismissing or taking disciplinary action against the employee. This Statement must be sent to the employee inviting the employee to attend a meeting to discuss the matter.

Stage 2: Meeting

The meeting must take place before action (other than suspension) is taken. The meeting must not take place until the employee has had a reasonable opportunity to consider his/her response to the information contained in the Statement. The employee must take all reasonable steps to attend the meeting. After the meeting, the employer must inform the employee of his decision and notify the employee of the right to appeal against the decision if he/she is not satisfied with it.

Stage 3: Appeal

If, following the meeting, the employee wishes to appeal against the employer’s action he/she must inform the employer of this. The employer must then invite the employee to attend a further meeting. Again, the employee must take all reasonable steps to attend the meeting. The Appeal Meeting need not take place before the dismissal or disciplinary action takes effect. After the Appeal Meeting, the employer must inform the employee of his final decision.

Modified Procedure

The modified procedure should be used where the employer has failed to follow the Standard Procedure when dismissing an employee and is attempting to make amends following the dismissal.

Stage 1: Statement of Grounds for Action

The employer must send the employee a Statement stating: (i) the basis for thinking at the time of the dismissal that the employee was guilty of the alleged misconduct; and (ii) the employee’s right to appeal against dismissal

Stage 2: Appeal

The appeals procedure follows the same pattern as under the Standard Procedure.

Each step and action under the Standard and Modified Procedures must be taken without unreasonable delay. The timing and location of meetings must be reasonable and meetings must be conducted in a manner that enables both employer and employee to explain their cases. At Appeal Meetings the employer should, where possible, be represented by a more senior Manager than attended the first meeting.

Sanctions for Non-Compliance

For the purposes of Unfair Dismissal claims, a dismissal will be Automatically Unfair if the Statutory Procedure is not followed by the employer and the employee will be entitled to receive an award of 4 weeks pay.

In addition, Employment Tribunals will have the power to increase the compensatory award by between 10% to 50%. Similarly, the Tribunal may reduce an award of compensation to an employee who has refused to follow the statutory procedures.

Grievance Procedure

Similar statutory procedures apply in relation to the handling of grievances. Again, the Standard Procedure has 3 stages:

Stage 1: Statement of Grievance
Stage 2: Meeting
Stage 3: Appeal

Again, a Modified Procedure should be followed where the employment has already terminated and either it is not reasonably practicable for one or other of the parties to use the Standard Procedure or both parties agree in writing to use the Modified Procedure. Under the Modified Procedure, the employee will send the employer a Statement of Grievance and the employer must then send the employee a Written Response to the Employee’s Statement.

There will be a moratorium (or ‘cooling down’ period) of 28 days from the completion of Stage 1 during which time the employee will be debarred from presenting an Employment Tribunal claim.

This new legislation is a reminder to employers of the importance or regularly reviewing and updating their employment documentation. As well as the need to ensure that appropriate Disciplinary and Grievance Procedures are in place, changes should be made (if they haven’t already) to deal with the new maternity and paternity rights, the right to request flexible working and the extension of discrimination law over the last few years to cover discrimination on the grounds of a person’s age, sexual orientation, religion or belief.

These procedures serve to emphasise the need for employers to act with care when contemplating disciplinary action or dismissals and where dealing with grievances.

If you have any queries regarding this or any other employment law issue, please contact Paul Lane on 020 7712 1715 or by email

Please note: The contents of this article do not constitute advice. It is not intended to be a comprehensive or definitive statement of the law and advice should always be taken as to individual circumstances. Please refer to our Terms of Use.

Date: March 2008


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