Workplace Discipline and Grievance 101

The reason Disciplinary and Grievance matters have such importance is the impact when they are not handled correctly.  In broad terms, unfair dismissal claims are based on a good procedure not being followed or an unreasonable decision being made during the process.  Constructive dismissal claims (where an employee feels conditions at work give them no option other than to resign) can come about where a grievance has not been dealt with correctly – or at all.

First, let’s define the terms:

Grievance: A process by which an employee is entitled to make a complaint or raise a problem and receive a response from their employer.  This may be broad enough to include whistleblowing or bullying or there may be separate procedures.

Disciplinary: A procedure an employer will follow where an employee behaves inappropriately.  May also be used in matters of capability but this may be addressed in a separate procedure.  Conduct is about an employee choosing the wrong behaviour.  Capability is about an employee not being able to perform their job.


Where discipline and grievance matters are not handled well, there the risk of Employment Tribunal claims which take significant time and financial resources and there is also the impact on lost productivity and low morale from the rest of the workforce.  If the claim is discrimination based, then awards to a successful claimant have no upper limit.


Disciplinary and grievance procedures aim to instil fairness in decision making.  When creating procedures employers should aim to comply with the provisions of the Acas Code of Practice on Disciplinary and Grievance.  This is really useful, employer-friendly guidance to support employers in making reasonable decisions.  Whilst not law itself and employers can choose not to follow the Code, if an employee later makes a successful Employment Tribunal claim, the amount of compensation they receive can be increased should the employer not comply with the Code.

If you have employees and do not currently have a disciplinary and/or grievance procedure, do get in touch for advice on creating them.



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