BARBADOS EMPLOYERS’ CONFEDERATION: Why develop a disciplinary procedure?
IN THE IDEAL SITUATION, a company will hire the right employee, all staff members will surpass expectations, and there will be no form of organisational conflict.
In this ideal world, there will be no need to discipline employees or utilise any form of corrective action.
However, as we are all aware, the ideal situation does not exist. A number of scenarios arise which require some level of corrective intervention within the organisation.
It is during such times that a formalised disciplinary procedure becomes critical, in that it provides structure and transparency in handling employees whose performance or conduct is not up to the expected standards, and to encourage improvement on their part.
All disciplinary procedures should follow the principles and tenets of the Employments Rights Act (2012), as well as those of progressive discipline.
In this instance, discipline is not to be seen as a punitive measure, but a rehabilitative one. That is, the purpose of discipline in the organisation is of assisting the employee to improve his/her behaviour/ performance.
Some of the types of discipline which can be used include: verbal counselling, warnings (verbal and written), performance improvement plans, suspension without pay, dismissal (this is used as a last resort, if there are no sign of improvement after the above have been exhausted, or in instances of gross misconduct and gross negligence).
There is no one-size-fits-all disciplinary procedure which can be applied over all organisations, and each individual company should sit and determine what are the performance standards and behaviours that exemplify their corporate standards, goals and targets.
Once this has been determined, it becomes simpler to decide what behaviours or performance levels deviate, and how they will be addressed.
Further, all employees become well aware of the company’s expectations and what could potentially occur if those standards are breached.
An example of a disciplinary procedure is as follows: “In the event of a breach in expected behaviours, you will be notified by your immediate supervisor, in writing, of a meeting to discuss the issues with your behaviour/ performance.
“You are allowed to bring a friend or representative to the meeting. After the conclusion of the meeting, you will be notified, in writing, of the outcome of the disciplinary meeting.”
A clear and concise code of discipline walks hand in hand with a disciplinary procedure; the procedure outlines the process to be followed in the event of a breach, while the code tells you what behaviours the organisation considers inappropriate.
Some companies will simply list the troublesome behaviours, while others will create a table, similar to the below which shows, not only the inappropriate behaviour, but the nature of the discipline which can be undertaken by the company if the individual is deemed to have breached it.
In companies with this type of system, the table or list is published within the company handbook or collective agreement, and all employees are aware of its existence.
Fundamentally, there is no guarantee that the establishment of a disciplinary procedure in your company will ensure that you don’t encounter challenges in dealing with members of your team, however, it will ensure that there are standards in your organisation, not only for the employees, but for how the management team should handle the issues which may arise from time to time.
An established disciplinary procedure and code of discipline ensure transparency in the organisation, and can protect a manager from accusations of favouritism or conversely victimisation. It ensures that discipline is consistently applied across departments, and can protect the organisation from claims of wrongful or unfair dismissal.