5 Steps in the disciplinary Process

by | Nov 18, 2020 | Disciplinary & Dismissal, Performance

Hi Guys

Just before we get into the next steps in escalating into the disciplinary process, don’t forget, if you are planning to do a shutdown this Christmas you need to give your team 14 days notice, and here is a link to the template letter to announce the shut-down

The 5 steps in the disciplinary process
Last time we talked about the 7 steps to improving staff performance, sadly, despite your best efforts, sometimes people just can’t or won’t get it, and you need to escalate into the disciplinary process.

Attitude V’s Aptitude
If you have gone through the steps of explaining what needs doing, giving appropriate (re) training (see previous blogs on this) then you will generally have ruled out aptitude (ability to do the tasks required of them), and the main core problem will be more to do with their attitude (desire to actually be bothered to do the job).  As such, the disciplinary process will often be strongly centred around attitudinal issues (NB check out the Assessment criteria Matrix to help define these softer attitudinal skills).

The disciplinary process
The disciplinary process is actually pretty straight forward:

  1. Invite them to attend a meeting – do this in writing, and lay out the reasons for the meeting clearly in writing – Invitation to the disciplinary meeting
  2. Give them the right to have a support person present
  3. Listen to what they have to say
  4. Decide on the outcome
  5. Confirm the outcome in writing – First or second warning with a Performance Improvement plan

Read the quick guide to the disciplinary process for more details

Possible outcomes
Just because you have had a disciplinary meeting does not mean there is necessarily a disciplinary outcome.  Things may come out in the meeting which make you re-evaluate.  But disciplinary outcomes may include:

  1. First level warning with a performance improvement plan – most common outcome
  2. Second level warning with a performance improvement plan – you may go straight to 2nd level if you have either previously given a formal warning, and/or the attitude is so strongly “I’m not going to do anything to change” that they are running the risk of breaching good faith in the employment relationship.
  3. Final warning or dismissal – usually these would only occur if you have previously issued warnings and are escalating through the process

A case study where no warning was given after a disciplinary process

I had a disciplinary process with a gentleman who’s performance was dropping off, he was consistently turning up late, and had a pattern of “Monday-it is”.  When we went into the disciplinary process he revealed that he was on dialysis, awaiting a kidney transplant, but hadn’t told anyone at work because it was the only place where he wasn’t being treated as “the patient”.

Obviously, we didn’t want to give a disciplinary outcome in this case, but his erratic work pattern did mean that his absence had an impact on other staff members.  As such we agreed on a change in the role so that he could work from home the majority of the time, on a project job which meant that his work (or inability to work) didn’t impact others, but he could continue to keep his private life, private.

“Verbal warning” is a misnomer
NB for a warning to be legally compliant you must have followed the process and confirmed it in writing.  Just telling them verbally that they have been given a warning is not actually a legally compliant warning.

Why the performance improvement plan?
I always recommend, if you are going into the disciplinary process as a result of performance issues, that you make it a condition of the warning that they participate in a performance improvement plan.  This plan is, basically, a performance appraisal on acid, with:

  1. Very clearly defined areas of concern
  2. Weekly or fortnightly meetings for feedback on progress against the areas of concern

By following this process people will either pull up their socks, or exit voluntarily quite quickly because they don’t like the pressure

You’re Bullying Me!
Sadly, this is a common catch cry from employees who are being subject to performance management and the disciplinary process.  You absolutely, as an employer need to check that your behaviour is NOT bullying.  However, Worksafe NZ specifically states the following as examples of what is NOT bullying:

  • Setting High-performance Standards
  • Constructive feedback and legitimate advice or peer review
  • A manager requiring reasonable verbal or written work instructions to be carried out
  • Warning or disciplining workers in line with the business or undertakings code of conduct
  • Reasonable management actions delivered in a reasonable way

As a manager, it is often frustrating to deal these issues, so:

  1. Keep calm
  2. Be specific
  3. Deal in facts

And if the tempers are getting frayed, take a break and call me on 021 741 544
In the next newsletter I will be talking managing sick leave issues.  And in the meantime sign-up for HRtoolkit, or give me a call on 021 741 544 if you need pointing in the right direction


Lisa Mackay
Founder HRtoolkit

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