Top Tips for Managing Misconduct

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Misconduct is described as behaviour which is inappropriate for an employee in the course of their work. In your role as a manager, from time to time you will be faced with instances of misconduct that need to be dealt with. It is likely that you will use your organisation’s disciplinary policy to deal with the procedural aspects of misconduct. These tips contain supplementary best practice advice to help you apply formal procedures in a fair and consistent way. Use informal approaches in the first instance It is likely that many cases of minor misconduct or unsatisfactory performance that you encounter can be dealt with informally. Sometimes, all you may need to do is have a quiet word with the member of staff in order to address their conduct or performance. An informal discussion can also uncover mitigating circumstances (e.g. health, domestic issues, extreme provocation etc.) which you were previously unaware of, and can also highlight a need for training, coaching or other support that can be provided to help move things forward effectively. It can also be helpful to keep brief written notes of your conversation(s) to record what has been agreed, but also to demonstrate that informal steps have been taken, should the issue become more serious in future. Address issues promptly It is important to address all incidences of misconduct as quickly as possible. Although it can sometimes be tempting to ignore problem issues within your team in the hope that they will disappear; inaction often makes things worse in the longer-term. Remember that your member of staff might be feeling anxious or nervous about the situation. Dealing with things promptly also reduces stress levels for everyone involved. You should not unreasonably delay the organisation of any meetings, the gathering of evidence, decision-making regarding the outcome and confirmation of your decisions to the relevant parties. Be consistent in your approach Consistency is one of the hallmarks of effective management of misconduct. Key points to be aware of as you exercise formal disciplinary procedures include:
  • treating all employees equally regardless of the nature of the allegation(s)

  • keeping employees informed of the process being followed 

  • ensuring careful and full investigation of all cases of misconduct without prejudice to the outcome allowing employees to be accompanied to meetings

  • specifying the nature of any potential disciplinary sanctions

  • ensuring that the right of appeal is specified in all cases
Keep things confidential Although you may wish to discuss or take advice from colleagues and peers about aspects of the case, it is important that all information is dealt with in a confidential manner. You should also ensure that all written information (e.g. witness statements and employee records) is kept confidential and is stored securely. Be sure of the process to be followed Before embarking on any formal disciplinary action, you should take some time to ensure that you are familiar with all relevant procedures relating to misconduct in your organisation. A good starting point would be to familiarise yourself with your organisation’s disciplinary policy. You should also read any written witness statements and other supporting documents thoroughly. It is also important to be aware of your member of staff’s employment history (e.g. absence or sickness records) and any possible mitigating circumstances. Allow the employee to have their say Regardless of the nature of the alleged misconduct, one of the most important aspects of any disciplinary process is allowing your member of staff to respond to allegations made against them. If the alleged misconduct is serious, it is likely that the process you follow will involve informing your member of staff about the problem, then inviting them to set out their response – most likely as part of a formal disciplinary meeting. You should give your member of staff reasonable opportunity to prepare for the formal disciplinary meeting by sending copies of relevant documentation in advance. At the disciplinary meeting itself, you should ensure your member of staff is able to ask questions, present their own evidence and call relevant witnesses to support their case, where appropriate. Make next actions and final outcomes clear Regardless of whether you are using formal or informal approaches to tackle misconduct, it is vital that you make the next steps in the process clear. For example, if you are speaking to someone informally about their conduct, you may wish to say that if a satisfactory improvement is not reached by a given time, the next step may involve the use of formal processes to address the issue. After a formal disciplinary meeting, you should outline the timescale within which a decision will be made regarding the outcome and any potential disciplinary actions. Ensure that your staff member understands the process you are following, and has the opportunity to seek clarification and ask questions about what will happen next. For more information on statutory disciplinary processes, please give us a call today – we’re here to help you through the minefield of employment law.

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