Topic overview

Discipline and grievance

Discipline and grievance

Disciplinary and grievance issues can be a major burden to employers. Putting in place and following the right procedures is essential. Without them, you run the risk of ending up in front of an employment tribunal facing a claim of unfair or constructive dismissal.

Disciplinary procedures

Every business should have written disciplinary and grievance procedures. The Acas Code of Practice provides a guide to creating and managing the right paperwork and processes. If you fail to follow the Code of Practice, you could face an increase of 25% in any award made against you by an employment tribunal. You may want to take legal advice to help you draw up your own procedure.

You need to decide what rules are needed: for example, on inappropriate behaviour - and how serious different offences are. This includes deciding what constitutes gross misconduct, meriting instant dismissal.

The discipline procedure should clearly state what disciplinary actions can be taken and who has the authority to act. It should not include dismissal for a first offence, unless there has been gross misconduct. The rules should be explained to all employees.

Disciplinary issues

Managers need training to ensure that they understand and follow the disciplinary procedure. No formal action should be taken until there has been a thorough investigation of events. When action is taken, managers must act fairly and consistently.

It may be possible to deal with minor offences with an informal discussion. A formal disciplinary procedure should be followed for more serious offences. In any case, clear records should be taken of the incident and any action taken. This can be vital if disciplinary action eventually leads to a dismissal which is challenged at an employment tribunal.


You should have a written grievance procedure that follows the Acas Code of Practice. Typically, it should require the employee to set out their grievance in writing so it can be investigated. The grievance is then discussed at a meeting and action agreed. Dissatisfied employees should have the right to appeal to someone who was not originally involved.

As with discipline, employees need to know about the procedure and managers need training in dealing with grievances. Training should include helping them identify when a grievance exists - even if a formal complaint has not been made - and how to resolve it informally.

Reviewed by Julian Allsop of Guildhall Chambers

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