Published 2 September 10


Disciplinary and grievance issues

If an employee's conduct is not as expected of them or their work performance is found wanting, or a staff member experiences problems at work, these issues are often successfully dealt with on an informal basis. In many situations, problems can be highlighted at an early stage by an appraisal process and solutions found before problems get out of hand, particularly if a problem has occurred due to a misunderstanding.

However, at times it may be necessary to deal with more persistent or serious matters in a more formal manner and the fairest way to do this is by following a clear disciplinary and grievance procedure. Employers use disciplinary procedures to tell employees that their performance or conduct isn't up to the expected standard and to encourage improvement, and employees can make use of grievance procedures when they experience a genuine problem in the workplace.

Many larger businesses have their own Disciplinary and Grievance procedure, but the Code of Practice on discipline and grievances at work issued by Acas (Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service) should be regarded as a bare minimum as set out by the law. A failure to follow the code itself does not necessarily make an individual or company liable to legal action but should a matter go to an employment tribunal, any failure to follow the prescribed process in the code will be taken into account, which may result in a case for unfair dismissal, as an example.

The Acas Code of Practice on disciplinary and grievance procedures

Employers must produce disciplinary procedure documentation and make it available to their employees. This should include:

  • The employer's disciplinary procedure rules.
  • What performance and conduct might lead to disciplinary action.
  • What action the employer might take.

The employer must also provide, in writing, the name of a person an employee can apply to if they are dissatisfied with the employer's decision.

Rules for disciplinary and grievance procedures in Northern Ireland differ:

Further advice on disciplinary and grievance procedures

Defining 'misconduct'

Disciplinary and grievance procedures and processes

Employer and employee rights during disciplinary procedures