Employment law and disciplinary action


In employment law, disciplinary procedures have become increasingly important as a result of changes to the law in recent years. If an employer wishes to dismiss an employee, they may have to follow one of the statutory disciplinary procedures.

This is absolutely essential, otherwise the employer will be in breach of the law.

What is the law on disciplinary action?

In employment law, disciplinary procedures do not have to be followed in the following cases:

  • When an employee is alleging constructive dismissal
  • Collective redundancy (this is when more than 20 people are being made redundant within a 90-day period)
  • When the employer’s business ceases to function

The above is not an exhaustive list. There are other scenarios in which disciplinary procedures do not have to be followed. Employers should seek legal advice if they are unsure whether they are obliged to follow a disciplinary procedure in a particular case.

What should you do as an employee?

If you have been invited to attend a disciplinary hearing at your work for any kind of misconduct, you need to find out as much as possible from your employer about the process in advance of the hearing.

Whilst disciplinary hearings can be a worrying experience for some, the more prepared you are and the more you know about the process, the higher the probability that the outcome will be successful.

The risk you face if you are not prepared is that you may receive:

  • A formal warning
  • A sanction
  • Risk being dismissed from your job

The disciplinary procedures in place will vary from employer to employer but you should ask your employer to provide you with any documentation which sets out the process in writing. If you need any assistance in preparing your case, our solicitors have experience in advising on disciplinary hearings and can help to guide you through the process.

Whilst solicitors will generally not represent you at disciplinary hearings themselves, you are allowed to be accompanied by either a colleague or a Trade Union representative.

If after the hearing you have reason to believe that you were treated unfairly or that the procedure was not followed, you should seek advice from an employment solicitor, as there may be a way to appeal the decision that was taken.

What should you do as an employer?

As a result of updates to employment law, disciplinary procedures should be put in writing. In some cases, disciplinary procedures are written into contracts of employment. If these procedures are not followed, then the employee could sue for breach of contract.

An employer should have a staff handbook which sets out their disciplinary procedures. The handbook should state the employer’s rules and the type of behaviour which might lead to disciplinary action being taken against an employee. Employers are legally obliged to give employees written details of whom they can appeal to if they are dissatisfied with their decision.

If you are unsure if you are fulfilling your legal obligations in the correct process for disciplinary procedures, it is recommended to seek legal advice to ensure you do not leave your company open to be sued for unfair dismissal claims.

For more information, see our FAQ on disciplinary decisions.

If you would like to obtain legal advice and information on disciplinary procedures in employment law, Contact Law can put you in touch with a local specialist employment solicitor free of charge. So, if you have any questions or would like our help in finding local employment solicitors please call us on 0800 1777 162 or complete the web-form above.

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