Whilst the Company does not intend to impose unreasonable rules of conduct on its employees, certain standards of behaviour are necessary to maintain good employment relations and discipline in the interest of all employees. The Company prefers that discipline be voluntary and self-imposed and, in the vast majority of cases, this is how it works. However, from time to time, it may be necessary for the Company to take action towards individuals whose level of behaviour or performance is unacceptable. It will also occur where an employee knowingly breaks any legal requirement in connection with their employment.
With the exception of the section on alternatives to dismissal (which is contractual), this disciplinary procedure is non-contractual and does not form part of an employee’s contract of employment and may be amended at any time. The Company may also vary this disciplinary procedure as appropriate in any case.
Minor faults will be dealt with informally through counselling and training. However, in cases where informal discussion with the employee does not lead to an improvement in conduct or performance or where the matter is considered to be too serious to be classed as minor, for example, unauthorised absences, persistent poor timekeeping, sub-standard work performance, etc. the following disciplinary procedure will be used. At all stages of the procedure, an investigation will be carried out in order for the Company to establish a fair and balanced view of the facts relating to the disciplinary allegations against the employee, before deciding whether to proceed with a disciplinary hearing. This can include, where necessary, an investigation of social media websites (social media websites are a public forum, even if account privacy settings are set at a restricted access level). Employees must co-operate fully and promptly in any investigation. This will include informing the Company of the names of any relevant witnesses, disclosing any relevant documents and attending investigatory meetings if required.
Following any investigation, if the Company considers there are grounds for disciplinary action, it will notify the employee in writing of the allegations against him or her and will invite the employee to a disciplinary hearing to discuss the matter. The Company will provide sufficient information about the alleged misconduct or poor performance and its possible consequences to enable the employee to answer the case. This will include the provision of copies of written evidence, including witness statements, where appropriate. All employees must treat as confidential any information or evidence communicated to them in connection with an investigation or disciplinary matter.
Having given the employee reasonable time to prepare their case, a formal disciplinary hearing will then take place, conducted by a manager, at which the employee will be given the chance to state his or her case, accompanied if requested by a trade union official or a fellow employee of his or her choice. The employee must make every effort to attend the hearing. If the employee fails to attend without good reason, or is persistently unable to do so, the Company may have to take a decision based on the available evidence. At the hearing, the employee will be allowed to set out their case and answer any allegations and will also be given a reasonable opportunity to ask questions, present evidence, call relevant witnesses and raise points about any information provided by witnesses.
Please note that it is prohibited for employees to record (whether covertly or otherwise) the proceedings at the disciplinary hearing, and at any appeal hearing, without the express permission of the Company. If the Company discovers that you have done this covertly, you could be subject to further disciplinary action.
Following the hearing, the Company will decide whether or not disciplinary action is justified and, if so, the employee will be informed in writing of the Company’s decision in accordance with the stages set out below and notified of his or her right to appeal against that decision. An employee will not normally be dismissed for a first act of misconduct, unless the Company decides that it amounts to gross misconduct. Otherwise, it should be noted that an employee’s behaviour is not looked at in isolation but each incident of misconduct is regarded cumulatively with any previous occurrences. Please note that the Company will deal with all disciplinary matters within a reasonable timescale. However, it reserves the right to extend these wherever necessary and if appropriate.
Stage 1: Written warning
The employee will be given a formal WRITTEN WARNING. He or she will be advised of the reason for the warning, how he or she needs to improve their conduct or performance, the timescale over which the improvement is to be achieved, that the warning is the first stage of the formal disciplinary procedure and the likely consequences if the terms of the warning are not complied with. The written warning will be recorded but nullified after six months, subject to satisfactory conduct and performance.
Stage 2: Final written warning
Failure to improve conduct or performance in response to the procedure so far, a repeat of misconduct for which a warning has previously been issued, or a first instance of serious misconduct or serious poor performance, will result in a FINAL WRITTEN WARNING being issued. This will set out the nature of the misconduct or poor performance, how he or she needs to improve their conduct or performance, the timescale over which the improvement is to be achieved and warn that dismissal will probably result if the terms of the warning are not complied with. This final written warning will be recorded but nullified after twelve months, subject to satisfactory conduct and performance. However, the Company reserves the right to extend the validity of the final written warning to a maximum of three years in cases of very serious misconduct verging on gross misconduct or where the employee has a history of misconduct issues.
Stage 3: Dismissal
Failure to meet the requirements set out in the final written warning will normally lead to DISMISSAL with appropriate notice. A decision of this kind will only be made after the fullest possible investigation. Dismissal can be authorised only by a senior manager or a Director. The employee will be informed of the reasons for dismissal, the appropriate period of notice, the date on which his or her employment will terminate and how the employee can appeal against the dismissal decision.
Alternatives to dismissal
This section only of the disciplinary procedure is contractual and forms part of an employee’s contract of employment.
In some cases the Company may at its discretion consider alternatives to dismissal. These may be authorised by management and will usually be accompanied by a final written warning. Examples include:
- a period of suspension without pay
- loss of seniority
- pay reduction
- loss of future pay increment or bonus
- loss of overtime
- transfer to another department or job.
The Company reserves the right to institute disciplinary action against an employee who commits a misconduct offence, and this may result in a disciplinary sanction such as a written warning or final written warning. Examples of misconduct include:
- persistent lateness, poor timekeeping or otherwise failing to adhere to working hours
- time wasting
- unacceptable levels of absence
- failing to comply with absence notification and certification procedures
- a breach of the Company’s policies and procedures
- a breach of health and safety or security rules
- inappropriate dress or appearance which is below required standards
- failing to behave in a professional, polite and courteous manner towards other employees, clients, customers or visitors
- using foul or abusive language or engaging in other offensive behaviour
- failing to comply with a reasonable management instruction or insubordination
- failing to willingly co-operate with other employees
- misuse of the Company’s property, materials or equipment, including excessive wastage of materials and minor damage to property
- excessive personal use of the Company’s telephones
- excessive personal e-mail or Internet usage
- negligence or carelessness in the performance of job duties
- failing to maintain satisfactory standards of performance at work
- negligently breaking a legal requirement in connection with employment
- witnessing or having direct knowledge of another employee’s misconduct but failing to report it to the Company.
The above is intended as a guide and is not an exhaustive list.
Offences under this heading are so serious that an employee who commits them will normally be summarily dismissed, regardless of whether there are any active warnings on their record. In such cases, the Company reserves the right to dismiss without notice of termination or payment in lieu of notice. Examples of gross misconduct include:
- any breach of the criminal law, such as theft
- any unauthorised possession or removal of Company products or property, or property belonging to another employee, client, customer or visitor, fraud (including making fraudulent or false expense claims), deliberate falsification of records, false declarations in connection with employment or applications for employment or any other form of dishonesty
- using the Company’s property, materials or equipment to carry out work for third parties on a personal basis without permission
- misuse of Company benefits, such as improper use of a staff discount card
- offering, promising or giving a bribe or requesting, agreeing to receive or accepting a bribe or bribing a foreign public official in connection with employment contrary to the Bribery Act 2010
- wilfully or negligently causing harm or injury to another employee, client, customer or visitor, physical violence, assault, fighting, bullying or grossly offensive, abusive or aggressive behaviour or language
- deliberately or negligently causing loss or damage to the Company’s property, or to property belonging to another employee, client, customer or visitor
- vandalism of, or otherwise intentionally interfering with, the Company’s computers or computer or telephone network
- serious carelessness or gross negligence, including grossly negligent acts or omissions
- dereliction of duty, including sleeping whilst at work and undertaking unauthorised activities during normal working hours
- wilful refusal to obey a reasonable management instruction or serious insubordination
- serious incapacity at work through an excess of alcohol or illegal drugs, whether consumed on or off Company premises but which affects the employee’s ability to carry out their job duties whilst at work
- bringing illegal drugs or other illegal substances or items or weapons on to Company premises
- smoking on Company premises, other than in designated outside smoking areas
- logging on to sexually explicit websites, downloading or circulating pornographic or other offensive, illegal or obscene material or using the Internet or e-mail for gambling, illegal activities or the sending of offensive e-mails (e.g. jokes) to work colleagues (in the latter case, including from the employee’s home computer in their own time)
- engaging in sexual activity on Company premises at any time
- posting derogatory, offensive, discriminatory or defamatory comments online (for example, on social media websites) about the Company, its employees, clients or customers or otherwise conducting themselves online in a way that is detrimental to the Company or brings the Company into serious disrepute
- a serious breach of health and safety rules, including acts or omissions which endanger the safety of another employee, client, customer or visitor
- a serious breach of security rules
- behaviour outside working hours or work location, which either results in or has the potential to result in criminal charges or convictions, which affect the employee’s ability to perform their job duties
- discriminating against, harassing, bullying or victimising another employee, client, customer or visitor because of age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race (including colour, nationality and ethnic or national origins), religion or belief, sex and/or sexual orientation
- a serious breach of confidentiality, including unauthorised access of computer and personnel records and communicating or leaking trade secrets or confidential information about the Company or its employees, clients or customers to third parties
- working for a competitor without permission
- engaging in an unauthorised activity which conflicts with the interests of the Company or its clients or customers
- breaching copyright or any other proprietary interest belonging to the Company
- knowingly breaking a legal requirement in connection with employment
- bringing the Company into serious disrepute, even if done in the employee’s own time
- unauthorised absence, including failure to return from a period of annual leave or other approved leave of absence
- witnessing or having direct knowledge of another employee’s gross misconduct but failing to report it to the Company.
The above is intended as a guide and is not an exhaustive list.
In the event of serious or gross misconduct, an employee may be suspended without basic pay while a full investigation is carried out. Such suspension does not imply guilt or blame and will be for as short a period as possible. Suspension is not considered a disciplinary action or penalty and it does not indicate that any decision has already been made about the allegations.
An employee may appeal against any disciplinary decision, including dismissal, to a Director of the Company within five working days of the decision. Appeals should be made in writing and state the full grounds for appeal. The employee will be invited to attend an appeal hearing chaired by a senior manager or a Director or an independent chairperson appointed by the Company.
At the appeal hearing, the employee will again be given the chance to state his or her case and will have the right to be accompanied by a trade union official or a fellow employee of his or her choice.
Following the appeal hearing, the employee will be informed in writing of the appeal decision. The Company may confirm the original decision, revoke the original decision or substitute a different penalty. The Company’s decision on an appeal will be final.
If the appeal is against dismissal, the date that any dismissal takes effect will not be delayed pending the outcome of the appeal. However, if the appeal is successful, the decision to dismiss will be removed and the employee will be reinstated with no loss of continuity or pay.
Employees with short service
This disciplinary procedure does not apply to any employee who has been employed by the Company for less than two years.