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Discipline & Grievance

Organisations have to have and need many different HR policies but the ones that probably both managers and employees should be most familiar with are the Discipline and Grievance policies. These policies if written and communicated effectively, together with Performance Management and Attendance Management, go a long way to shaping the organisational culture.

The Disciplinary policy for many can be perceived as a negative and it is only when something happens that it is looked at. Whereas in reality if this policy is openly discussed and readily available then it is an excellent tool for helping employees understand what is acceptable and why within the workplace. In addition, whilst obviously the ultimate sanction is dismissal and no one wants that; if written correctly and in a positive manager the policy can be the tools and framework for a rehabilitative approach as opposed to a stick to beat employees with.

Everyone needs to know what is acceptable within the workplace therefore any policy needs to be available to employees – readily available is not the HR Manager or the Line Managers desk! Policy folders should be available in staff areas or be on line so that staff can review and access them in their own time, not only when there may be a problem.

Managers and staff should be well aware that

  • There should be a written policy
  • It is much better in the early stages that any minor infractions are dealt with informally and in many cases this will be the end of it. It is when managers avoid taking those informal steps because they don't want to 'upset the applecart' or choose to believe 'it doesn't really matter' or 'it'll go away' – it won't , it doesn't and then managers have to start taking formal action and the reality in some cases it can be a sledgehammer to break a nut! If only managers dealt with issues in a timely and appropriate manner.
  • The policy should be written in plain English with clear processes and steps and examples of what level of warning may be given for what level of infraction
  • A thorough investigation should be carried out before any potential disciplinary hearing, preferably carried out by someone other than a manager directly involved or managing the potentially disciplined employee.
  • Employees should be formally invited to any hearing, stating why they are attending the hearing and their right to representation
  • Any decisions should be put in writing to the employee

Like Discipline, there should be a written Grievance policy in every workplace. As with discipline, whilst the policy should be in place with clear steps and timelines, ACAS recommend that managers and employees try in the first instance to deal with issues within an informal arena. To do this effectively managers must have an inclusive management style and employees must feel they can go to their manager with any issues and they will be listened to. If this is not the case, employees are far more likely to go the formal route at all times.

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