Disciplinary process

All disciplinary action for misconduct must be carried out fairly, or the employee may have a personal grievance claim against the employer.

Follow a fair process

If an employer wants to discipline an employee for misconduct, they must have a good reason for taking the action. Employers must follow the principles of a fair process.

Usually, processes for disciplinary action, including warnings or dismissal will be written in the employment agreement or workplace policies. These processes should be followed. Where there is no agreed procedure to be followed, employers should use a careful, thorough and fair process.

Note: If an employee is not doing their job, or performing poorly in relation to their employment agreement, this may be a performance issue (sometimes called poor performance). There are both informal and formal processes to manage performance issues, which is different from the disciplinary process explained on this page.

How to manage performance issues

Steps for employers to take

The following is a step-by-step process that employers may find useful:

Common mistakes

Some common mistakes made by employers when carrying out a disciplinary or dismissal process are:

  • making a decision before a proper investigation
  • not explaining the process that will be followed to the employee
  • not telling the employee that they are allowed to bring a representative or support person to the meetings
  • not interviewing all relevant people or having a biased process
  • waiting too long after the incident to interview people, so that their memories are no longer fresh
  • conducting interviews in an unfair manner, such as asking biased questions
  • not telling the employee what the possible disciplinary outcome might be at the start of the process
  • treating an employee differently to others who have acted the same
  • making decisions based on feelings rather than the facts
  • handing the employee a typed letter of disciplinary action or dismissal straight away at the end of a discussion about the problem
  • not giving employees enough time to get advice or prepare a response
  • failing to consider the employee’s explanations for their behaviour.

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Page last revised: 28 February 2020

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