Managing Employee Conduct in the Workplace

By April Harrington.
09 Jun 2021

It’s essential that employees understand the expectations on them to maintain certain standards of behaviour. This is crucial for the external reputation of a company and how it presents itself to its customers. But also, employee misconduct can cause significant issues in productivity and output if left unchecked.

Conduct is a potentially fair reason for dismissing an employee. That said, employees with two years or more of continuous service gain the right not to be unfairly dismissed by their employer. Therefore, a clear disciplinary procedure must be followed before any final decision is made.

The Acas Code of Practice on Disciplinary and Grievance Procedures, a statutory code, provides guidance to employers on how to handle a disciplinary procedure in the workplace.

Forms of misconduct

Levels of misconduct start at unsatisfactory or minor misconduct. This includes the following:

  • poor performance of a task
  • poor timekeeping
  • poor standards of dress

Usually, situations like these can be dealt with informally. Have a discussion with the employee to tell them their behaviour is not acceptable. Reinforce that you will deal with them more seriously if it continues. That said, you can choose to begin the formal disciplinary process here if you feel it’s necessary.

If an employee continues to commit an act of minor misconduct, it can become a more serious form of misconduct. This is serious or major misconduct. This doesn’t have to be multiple instances of misconduct—can also be more specific isolated issues. These include:

Serious misconduct usually results in the start of a formal disciplinary procedure.

Lastly, gross misconduct. This misconduct is so serious it damages the trust and confidence of the employment relationship. What amounts to gross misconduct differs in some companies. So, be sure to outline what it means in your organisation. Generally, gross misconduct includes:

  • Theft
  • Unlawful discriminatory behaviour
  • Incapacity at work due to the use of intoxicants or drugs
  • Providing confidential company information to competitors or unauthorised bodies.

Gross misconduct can result in a dismissal for a first offence. However, a proper disciplinary procedure should still be followed.

Disciplinary procedure

If an allegation of employee misconduct is made, you must conduct a thorough, fair and impartial investigation. You must do this to promptly establish if there is a case to answer before considering further disciplinary action.

A thorough investigation will involve gathering all relevant evidence. You must also conduct fact-finding interviews with witnesses and the employee. Once completed, decide if the complaint can be resolved informally. If not, you should proceed with your disciplinary procedure. Employees have a statutory right to be accompanied to a disciplinary meeting. They can be a fellow worker, trade union representative, or an official employed by a trade union.

At the meeting, you should explain the disciplinary allegations in full. Once that is done go through the evidence with the employee and allow them to respond to each point. The employee should be given sufficient time to set out their case, ask questions, and present evidence in their favour. They should also be presented with the opportunity to provide any mitigating factors that they feel could help their case. Disciplinary procedures should include the right of appeal.

HR Considerations

Take steps to ensure all employees are aware of the expectations placed upon them whilst they work for the company. This can be specified in the contract of employment. You can also include this within the employee handbook and discuss it as part of an induction process.

It should be made clear how seriously forms of misconduct will be taken by the company and what the consequences will be. To give some examples, companies may wish to specify what actions will be taken in response to certain actions, such:

  • Claims of bullying
  • Abuse of company internet
  • Failure to adhere to its data protection requirements

Expert support

If you’re currently experiencing a conduct issue, speak to one of expert HR representatives today on 01455 858 132.

About the Author

April Harrington.

An experienced Senior Employment Law Consultant, who has worked for the group for over 9 years. April specialises in discrimination legislation. April has an extensive background in training, as well as recruitment and hospitality.

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