The following is an adaption of some work that was originally made as a presentation as part of my AS-business course, so I'm sorry if it sounds patronising - it needed to be. It is based around discipline and its maintenance in business, mainly in the UK.


What is discipline?

Discipline can come in two forms. The first meaning of discipline is to set rules for people to follow usually in the workplace or in an organisation. Once these rules have been broken then the following meaning of discipline would be to punish someone in consequence of their actions. All organisations use both the meanings described above to control the proceedings within the business and see that the employees can only have restricted freedom, in order to maintain control.
For example, during an induction to a job in a clothes outlet, a new employee will either be verbally informed or handed information in the form of a guide to their job outlining the expectancy of them as a responsible employee, as well as the consequences following any breach of the disciplinary guidelines which they are set.


Why is discipline required?

If organisations did not have discipline and rules about the way their employees should behave, then quite simply they would be free to do anything they wanted and be able to get away with it - targets would not be met, work would not be completed, the workplace would be more like a zoo than a productive environment. Consumer opinion is also a factor in necessary cases also.
In more physical careers, like professional sportsmen and the armed forces, discipline is far more essential in its first meaning - the guidelines that must be completed, as opposed to the outcome of their breach. Sportsmen and members of the armed forces would have to guarentee they were keeping to discipline as second nature in order to advance anywhere in their career.


Unfair dismissal

If an employee thinks that he or she has been unfairly dismissed from their job, they have the right take action against the company. This occurs when an ex-employee feels they have significant evidence to prove that they have been dismissed for an inappropriate reason - whether this be a personal dislike from management or if it is an over-reaction to a much more minor incident. If the company and the employee would prefer to settle the scenario outside of court, then they will attempt to agree an out of court settlement. If the extent of protest is not an issue for the aggrieved employee, then the company can be taken to court and the ex-employee can argue their case - usually in order to obtain a form of compensation (usually monetary) if they win. They can also ask for other things from the company like to be reinstated into their old job or to be rearranged into another job, assuming the dismissal is not too personal.


Forms of Misconduct
Minor Misconduct

When working for a company, the business will set rules that you see when you start work, which should be in your contract or explained by the manager. If you break the rules then depending on what your offence is you can suffer a range of consequences ranging from a verbal warning to being sacked from the company and even made to pay compensation yourself for damages or losses the business may have suffered due to your malpractice. Events categorised under 'minor misconduct' are those that are less serious than to warrent worry of instant dismissal. When people are sacked from their jobs for minor misconduct it is usually a number of seperate offences that get the person sacked. Turning up late fairly regularly without giving notice or telephoning in with a reason could result in a verbal or written warning, but almost never will result in an immediate dismissal.

Gross Misconduct
If you are sacked from your job for gross misconduct then this is due to a much more serious event than any that would come under the category of minor misconduct. Normally only one offence will need to be commited to trigger an instant dismissal. Things included in this category are theft, fighting or breach of company confidentiality.


The stages of the disciplinary procedure

Minor problems are usually dealt with informally, sometimes with advice, counselling or coaching if needed. However if more serious matters occur then the following procedures are put in place:

  1. Verbal warning
    If conduct or performance of an employee does not meet acceptable standards then the company usually will give a verbal warning. This procedure usually consists of a meeting with the employee in question; the employee will usually be given details of the reason for the procedure and given on advice to amend theses faults in order to enhance the productivity of the employee and to let them know they are being tracked. Some companies may choose to keep this disciplinary procedure on record, however record of the incidence is usually disregarded after a period of around six months.
  2. Written warning
    If the misconduct or poor performance is more serious and is either causing bad reputation or bad business for the company then it is likely that a written warning will be given to the employee by the appropriate supervisor or manager. The warning will give the employee details of the reason for the disciplinary and information regarding the improvement or change in behaviour the company requires. It will also specify the timescale allowed for this improvement and the right of appeal. The employee will also be warned of the possibility of a final written warning if no sufficient improvement is made. This procedure will usually be kept by the manager/supervisor in charge and put on the individuals file. If satisfactory improvement is made then the procedure is usually disregarded after a period of around 12 months, but can usually be overlooked if the improvement is rapid and significant.
  3. Final written warning
    If the offence is serious or there is a failure to improve upon a previous warning then a final written warning is usually given to the employee. This stage is the final stage before an employee will be dismissed. This warning will usually be issued by a manager at least one level above the immediate supervisor. The warning will give details of the complaint, the improvement required and the timescale in which this must be achieved. The employee will be warned that this stage is the final stage before dismissal. The company will keep a record of this procedure on file for a considerable period in order to recognise the fact that the employee has disrupted business in the past and to allow them to keep a close eye on them for improvements, or not, as the case may be.
  4. Dismissal
    If previous warnings are ignored then the final step in the disciplinary procedures will be imposed. This consists of the employee being dismissed from the company through formal procedure. Only senior managers in the appropriate departments can take this action usually in conjunction with a member from human resources. The employee will be given written reasons for dismissal, the date on which employment will be terminated and details concerning appeal.

When necessary, in cases of gross misconduct, the business may jump straight to the last stage regardless of the employees history of discipline, which is;

  • Dismissal without notice
    This is where an employee commits an offence which merits an immediate dismissal. When this occurs the employee will not go through any of the other disciplinary procedures mentioned above. This ties in closely with gross misconduct, and acts of fighting, theft, fraud, indecent behaviour and serious negligence will warrant this outcome, amongst others.

  • Grievance procedure

    According to legislation in the UK, employers are required to inform their employees, within 13 weeks (approx. 3 months) of starting work, about the main terms and conditions of their employment including specific references to disciplinary and grievance procedures.

    • An employee must revise the grievance – the onus is on the employee to state the nature of the grievance and what should be done about it.
    • If the situation cannot be solved easily there and then, a formal application may be required to raise the issue under the appropriate procedure.
    • The procedure is sometimes set out like this:-

    1. Preamble
      Management recognises the right of every employee to seek a suitable outcome for any grievances they may have relating to their employment. The following process aims to provide a quick and fair settlement of the grievance in questionas near as possible to its point of origin to prevent unneccessary hassle.
    2. Stage 1
      The employee should first raise the matter their immediate manager or supervisor, and has a right to be accompanied by a colleague. The manager or supervisor will attempt to resolve the grievance as soon as the feel is possible.
    3. Stage 2
      If the employee is not satisfied with the response of their immediate manager or supervisor, the matter will be referred to the departmental manager or other appropriate senior manager, who will arrange and sit a hearing within 5 working days of the reference to them. At the meeting the employee can again be accompanied by a colleague if they see fit, and the Human Resources Manager or a representitive if neccessary (depending on the scale of the business) will by present.
    4. Appeal
      If the employee is still not satisfied after the second stage, they have a right to appeal to a director, who will have to hear the appeal within 5 working days. The employee, a colleague, and the Human Resources Manager will almost all certainly be present at the appeal hearing depending on the specific business. The result of the appeal will be recorded in writing and distributed to all parties concerned.

    Sources:
    Sivewright, Chris: 25 Key Topics In Human Resources
    Birchall, John; Morris, Graham: Business Studies
    (Please also note this was a subject covered briefly in my course so personal study time has also gone into this via various sources in my college library and handouts from my two teachers, but none of which are from any URLs - some personal knowledge has been included.)

    (Okay, who's the smart-ass soft-linker? Hehe... funny though)

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