In this blog, Katie Hodson, Partner and Head of Employment, outlines six steps that employers can take to effectively deal with misconduct in the workplace.
As we know, businesses have had to make a lot of changes due to Covid-19, including varying working practices, putting social distancing measures into place along with introducing more stringent hygiene rules. This heightened awareness of risk, and a viewpoint that other employees are being given more allowances than others, can lead to arguments and disputes.
In these types of employee disputes (or indeed any other type of employee dispute), getting to the bottom of the situation swiftly in order to make the right decision is critical. This critical process is what we call ‘making findings of fact’. In many dispute situations, failure to establish the facts can result in the wrong course of action which could then lead to low morale, further grievances being raised, resignations or findings of unfair dismissal in the Tribunal.
So here are six steps you can take to effectively deal with misconduct in the workplace:
Talk to All Parties Involved
In order to establish the facts, everyone involved in some way needs to be consulted to assess and remove discrepancies and inconsistencies.. This is essential before deciding on the appropriate disciplinary penalty.
Consider Your Options
The choices open to you are far broader than either taking no action or dismissing the employee. Things may be more complex than this. A dispute may involve two employees, such as a manager and a subordinate. Both may be at fault but their behaviour should be reviewed differently in relation to their role. For example, the manager should set an example so may get a final warning, whereas the subordinate could get a first written warning.
Judge Reasonably and Fairly
You might easily feel betrayed or let down by the employees in question which could cloud your judgment of the incident, especially if the business has been damaged in any way. But failure to stick to the rule book in your judgement could create risks around unfair dismissal. You need to come to a reasonable decision and be a reasonable employer.
Consider the Wider Implications
You should think about who else is affected by the situation other than the employee. This could potentially include other employees who were directly affected, the workforce as a whole, clients, customers or partners. Keeping your business’ reputation intact is critical so these wider factors should be part of your decision.
Assess the Risks
You should also assess the risks to your business, such as loss of customers or employees who are loyal to the employee in question. If another employee is claiming mistreatment, think about the risks of making the wrong decision. Failure to dismiss an employee who has done something wrong could make the other party unhappy, leading to an unwanted resignation and even a constructive dismissal case with further damage and cost incurred.
Ask an Expert
Don’t go through the process alone; it can be very tough and lonely, even with the support and views of your fellow managers. Professional practical advice from a specialist employment adviser will be invaluable in helping you take the right approach. The advice will ensure you know your rights as an employer and can objectively steer your employee through the process to a fair and low risk outcome for your business.
All employers should consider that disputes are tricky to navigate and can damage the business significantly if they are not carefully and sympathetically managed.