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 employment disciplinary procedures in your employee handbooks is so important. It’ll help you keep everything straightforward and legally compliant

When it comes to employee handbooks, employment 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 the disciplinary procedures.

Why are disciplinary procedures 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 the written statement should refer the worker to a reasonably accessible separate document containing them, such as an employee handbook.

Failing to provide information to your employees regarding disciplinary procedures puts your company at risk of not dealing with disciplinary matters consistently 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 ensure staff know what is expected of them.

When it comes to employment disciplinary procedures, the handbook should set outline your disciplinary procedures. 

It’s a legal requirement that disciplinary procedures are specified in the individual’s written particulars of employment or in a reasonably accessible document containing them, such as the staff handbook. But, aside from that, it’s also a great opportunity to communicate to your employees more about your business and what you expect from them. It helps build trust in you as an employer and it serves you well in meeting compliance standards. It’s a win-win! 

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!

Examples of disciplinary procedures to include in your employee handbook

As there are so many areas to think about, we understand it can be a little overwhelming and it’s easy to overlook one or two things. So, here’s a handy list to help you along the way. 


  • Code of conduct – Behaviour, professional standard, and ethics, they’re all key to success, so everybody needs to know what the business demands and expects.
  • Performance improvement – The success of your business requires good performance across the board. If that isn’t being met, do you have clear guidance to help your staff understand what good performance looks like?
  • Attendance – If your employees are absent, your business suffers. So you should outline the consequences if attendance issues keep arising. 
  • Grievance procedure – It’s always good for employees to know how they can raise concerns should they need to. 
  • Harassment and discrimination – Nobody should be subject to harassment or discrimination anywhere, and certainly not in the workplace. Outline your stance on what will happen if this is reported. 
  • Health & Safety – A safe workplace is beneficial for all. Violations can cause serious issues, and your disciplinary procedure should reflect the seriousness of this. 
  • Drugs and alcohol misuse – An employee under the influence of drugs or alcohol can cause problems for your business. A drugs and alcohol policy can be included in the employee handbook. 
  • Appeals – Every employee has the right to appeal a disciplinary decision if they feel it’s an unfair outcome or there has been an unfair investigation, but they need to know how. This information should be found in the handbook.

It’s worth noting that some elements of an employee handbook may be 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, protecting both you and your employees – so, why not contact us for more information and support?

Disciplinary action – deciding the best approach

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.

Create compliant employee handbooks with our Employment Law support package

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 any 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 experts are available 24/7 for one-to-one support if you run across any problems. We can even come to your site and support you with any disciplinary issues if they pop up.

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

In the meantime, we have lots more handy online resources on all things related to disciplinary procedures. 

FREE Guide – How to hold a disciplinary hearing

Common disciplinary procedure mistakes

What happens if an employee doesn’t turn up for a disciplinary meeting?

How to hold a disciplinary

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