Should you include disciplinary procedures in employee handbooks?

When you’re running a company, there may be a time when an employee behaves in a way that could be classed as misconduct. These situations can be tough and stressful to handle, which is why laying out your disciplinary procedures in your employee handbooks is so important. It’ll help you keep everything as straightforward and, most importantly, legally compliant as possible.

When it comes to employee handbooks, workplace disciplinary procedures are high on the list as one of the most important things to include. It’s common practice that if an employee fails to comply with reasonable management instructions or their behaviour results in misconduct, then you may have to take disciplinary action against them. Every company must have a clear process for appropriately handling these types of situations, and any employee must be fully aware of any guidelines and company expectations.


Why disciplinary procedures are essential for employers

Some employers choose not to have their disciplinary policy as a contractual document. However, there is still a legal requirement for any disciplinary rules and procedures to be explained in a written statement of particulars of employment or accessible in a separate document, such as an employee handbook.

Failing to provide information to your employees regarding disciplinary procedures puts your company at risk and may result in accusations of discrimination, ill-treatment, and unfair dismissal. Not all companies recognise the advantages of having an employee handbook, which can be a costly mistake with big legal consequences.


What policies should be included in an employee handbook?

Employee handbooks can be a valuable resource to both new and existing employees. Done correctly, they’re also an effective way for businesses to protect themselves and stay efficient by making necessary information accessible.

A handbook should show a collection of policies, guidelines, and procedures, while also helping to reflect your organisation’s work culture, expectations, and best practices. Employee handbooks are also an excellent opportunity to represent your company’s stance on important areas such as equality, diversity, and inclusion compliance.

Employee handbooks will vary from business to business, but all should contain essential information surrounding company policies such as disciplinary and grievance procedures and how sickness, lateness and employee absences are managed within the business.

It’s worth noting that some elements of an employee handbook are contractual, meaning that an employee is legally bound to stick to those terms. However, some are not legally enforceable and are therefore non-contractual.

As this can be a bit of a grey area, it’s best to seek expert advice on producing an employee handbook that clearly outlines policies and protects both you and your employees – contact us for more information and support!


What classes as disciplinary action?

Circumstances that result in disciplinary action will vary from business to business. Before any disciplinary procedures begin, you must consider if the employee’s behaviour constitutes “misconduct” and if disciplinary action is a necessary and appropriate course of action.

For example, there may be underlying reasons why an employee has behaved in a certain way or perhaps something else has impacted their ability to perform their role to the required standard. It may also be that circumstances beyond their control have resulted in their failure to fulfil any obligations they have to the company. You must assess each situation and the impact disciplinary action may have on all parties involved.

For this reason, it’s really important that when you’re drafting any disciplinary procedures, all practices abide by the requirements of the Acas Code. It’s also better when policies are not too complex – making things simple saves valuable resources and prevents misunderstandings!

The disciplinary process should also reflect the type and size of your business. For example, it wouldn’t be appropriate to have a disciplinary procedure with lots of additional stages if you don’t have enough time, personnel, and resources to carry out such policies effectively.

But, at the very least, companies must ensure the following:

  • Make all employees aware of the rules, regulations, and behaviours they’re expected to follow.
  • Be clear about what types of behaviour will not be tolerated.
  • Outline the steps that will occur if an employee breaks the rules, including warnings, suspensions, and termination.
  • Explain the appeals process for employees who feel they’ve been unfairly disciplined.


We’ll help you create compliant employee handbooks

You’re busy with the day-to-day operations of your business, so slowing down and sifting through the complex world of HR is certainly not top of your priority list. However, effective HR practices, policies and documentation not only keep you compliant – they can also bring real business benefits, too.

That’s why we’re here to help. When you partner with us, we’ll work with you to create bespoke employee handbooks and all other key documentation in order to protect your business and help you operate in line with best-practice advice. Once your documentation is ready, you can store it and distribute it to employees through our intelligent online compliance platform, Atlas – making it quicker, easier, and simpler to stay on top of your legal obligations.

And that’s not all – our HR & Employment Law and Health & Safety experts are available 24/7 for one-to-one support if you run across any problems, and we can even come to your site and support you with any disciplinary issues if they pop up.

So, for a helping hand with your HR & Employment Law and Health & Safety compliance, simply get in touch with a member of our team today to see how your business can benefit.

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