Workplace discipline is often confused with punishment. The confusion is unnecessary. Workplace discipline protects the Employer and Employee by correcting inappropriate behaviour. Workplace discipline prevents damage.
The Employer can categorise “Inappropriate behaviour” misconduct or incapacity.
The incapacity process involves three (or more) discussions. These discussions focus on the gaps between the current and desired performance of the Employee. The outcomes of the discussions are definite plans to close the gaps in performance. The programs might include more training and coaching. If the employer-employee relationship cannot continue, the Employer must present the evidence to a disciplinary enquiry. The chairperson of the disciplinary enquiry might then give sanction of no-fault dismissal.
For a severe offence (misconduct) the procedure often includes
- the evidence hearing,
- the verdict hearing
- and the sanction hearing.
The term hearing above is interchangeable with Disciplinary Enquiry.
Workplace discipline must be progressive. The Employer must be sure that the Employee knows what the Employer expects. Often, employers don’t follow progressive discipline. The Employer then “jumps” to the worst punishment as the first step. Steps for progressive discipline can include the following:
- Verbal warning
- Recorded warning
- Written warning
- Final written warning
A disciplinary enquiry is usually only held when the Employer expects a final written warning or dismissal.
The chairperson of the hearing, Employee and Employer must determe whether the following is true:
- Is there a rule?
- Is the rule known to the Employee?
- Is the rule reasonable?
- Is the rule applied consistently?
- Is the sanction fair?
My latest book (I Keep Record of Disciplinary Enquiries) guides the chairperson of the enquiry, Employee and Employer through the disciplinary enquiry. This procedure should prevent procedural unfairness. The other test is substantial fairness. The chairperson can ensure substantial fairness by applying his or her mind and making a desicion on the balance of probability.