Mark Thompson, an expert in employment law at Associa Employment Service advises all businesses, regardless of size and industry sector, to put their rules and procedures in writing to avoid having them challenged in the event of an unfair dismissal claim at an employment tribunal.
Recent figures show an increase in compensation claims for unfair dismissal of 4%, a figure that looks set to rise due to some high-profile cases and the realisation for many employees that it costs nothing to register a complaint.
The average compensation awarded for unfair dismissal is around £6,000 but it can rise to over £50,000 in some cases.
Associa has produced the following tips for setting up a company disciplinary procedure.
- Involve staff and, if necessary, trade unions, in the process to ensure the rules are workable.
- Your rules should be written in a leaflet or accessible on your intranet so all your staff can read them. State the circumstances that will incur disciplinary action, including theft, physical violence, bullying, damage to property, drug abuse or infringement of health and safety rules Hold one-to-one meetings to ensure the rules are understood.
- Clearly state what the potential disciplinary action could be for breaches of the rules
- Make the written rules as clear and concise as possible.
Employment tribunals want to see that procedures have been followed. Formal procedures include allowing an employee to know the complaint against them, giving them the chance to tell their side of the story and allowing them to be accompanied by a union representative or colleague at tribunals.
In the case of minor breaches of the rules a formal oral warning can be given, with a written first warning for further offences or more serious cases. A dismissal letter should only follow after a final written warning has been issued. All records of these must be confidential.