10 common disciplinary mistakes

Lady dressed formally explaining the dismissal procedure

Disciplinary proceedings are crucial in any organisation for maintaining order, ensuring compliance, and upholding standards of conduct. However, getting the process wrong can be costly and reputationally damaging.

In this article, we’ll explore ten common disciplinary mistakes made by employers and provide insights on how to steer clear of them to safeguard your business.


What is a disciplinary procedure?

A disciplinary procedure is a structured process that addresses employee misconduct or performance issues. It involves steps such as investigation, informing the employee of allegations, suspension or holding a disciplinary hearing if necessary, and implementing disciplinary actions.

These are not only essential for maintaining a fair and transparent workplace but are also a legal requirement, and must be clearly outlined in the employee’s contract or an accessible document like an employee handbook.

Check out our top tips for disciplinary procedures for more information.


Why do employers conduct disciplinary proceedings?

There are numerous reasons why an employer may find it necessary to take disciplinary action against an employee, including:

  • Violation of company policies or codes of conduct.
  • Performance issues or failure to meet job expectations.
  • Misconduct such as harassment, discrimination, or unethical behaviour.
  • Breach of confidentiality or misuse of company resources.
  • Attendance and punctuality problems.
  • Theft, fraud, or dishonesty.
  • Insubordination or refusal to follow instructions.
  • Safety violations pose a risk to employees or company property.


10 disciplinary mistakes at work

Listed below are the ten most common disciplinary mistakes made by employers.

1. Not setting out the nature of the allegations clearly

When inviting an employee to a disciplinary hearing, issue a letter to the employee setting out the exact allegations against him/her; attach all evidence that you intend to rely upon and advise the employee of the right to be accompanied at the hearing. The employee should be allowed sufficient time to prepare for the hearing.

2. Using an incorrect procedure

The ACAS Code of Practice on Disciplinary and Grievance Procedures and the Company’s disciplinary procedures should be followed. If a proper procedure is not followed, the disciplinary action taken may be considered to be unfair. Read our advice on dismissal procedures here.

3. Failing to conduct a proper investigation

A reasonable and thorough investigation needs to be followed and all relevant evidence gathered before a decision is made as to whether formal action will be taken. The employer should take the time to establish the facts of the case. It is advisable to invite the employee to attend an investigation meeting. Employees involved in the investigation should be asked not to discuss the allegations.

4. Failing to suspend an employee facing serious allegations of misconduct

If you consider that the allegations against the employee are potential gross misconduct, you should consider suspending the employee on full pay pending a full investigation. If you do not suspend the employee and the employee is later dismissed for gross misconduct, it may be difficult to argue that the employee committed a fundamental breach of contract justifying dismissal if you allowed the employee to continue working in the same role or even in another capacity.

5. Not giving the employee the relevant evidence against him/her to be relied upon at the disciplinary hearing.

All evidence that the employer intends to rely upon at the disciplinary hearing should be given to the employee in advance of the hearing. The employee should be given sufficient time to consider the evidence and prepare a defence. The evidence to be relied upon should be attached to the invitation to attend the disciplinary hearing letter.

6. Not allowing the employee to be accompanied at a hearing

An employee is entitled to be accompanied by a work colleague, a trade union representative or an accredited trade union official. If the representative cannot attend the hearing, the employee should offer an alternative time within 5 days so that they can attend. The employee should be advised of the right of accompaniment in the invitation to attend the disciplinary hearing letter.

7. Failing to warn the employee of the possible consequences of the disciplinary action.

The employee should be warned of the likely sanction and there should be no surprises at the end of the proceedings. This should be stated clearly in the invitation to attend the disciplinary hearing letter and allow employees to understand the seriousness of the situation, prepare adequately, and participate effectively in the proceedings.

8. Having the same person deal with the whole disciplinary process

The person conducting the investigation process, disciplinary hearing and appeal hearing should be different or there is a possibility that the dismissal could be unfair. In an ideal scenario, the investigation, disciplinary hearing and appeal hearing should be conducted by different people. In a small business, it may be hard to find someone unconnected so whoever carries out the investigation must do so with an open mind.

9. Failing to provide an appeal

The employee must be provided with an opportunity to appeal the disciplinary sanction. The employee should be advised of the right of appeal in the disciplinary outcome letter. The appeal hearing should be unbiased and the outcome should not be a foregone conclusion.

10. Not keeping a full and accurate record of the disciplinary proceedings

A full written record should be made of the whole process, including an effective note-taker for disciplinary minutes. if possible, consider a disciplinary meeting recording with everyone’s consent. Without proper documentation, this leaves the details of the meetings more open to challenge. All information gathered concerning the employee should be stored in their personnel file.


Get disciplinary support from Citation

If you need support with disciplinaries, require HR advice or have other Employment Law issues, contact us today.

To learn more about what to expect in disciplinary hearings, why not check out our useful articles below?

How to hold a disciplinary hearing

How to follow up a disciplinary hearing

Can employees refuse to turn up to a disciplinary meeting?

Get more information

Pop in your details and we'll call you straight back

We'll get back to you as soon as we can.