Discipline procedures specify the process to follow in the event of a dispute between the employee and the employer about the employee's conduct or performance. Discipline procedures attempt to protect the rights of both parties while ensuring that any grievances are aired and solutions put in place.
Where a modern award or enterrprise agreement is in place that has an applicable discipline or grievance procedure, the employer should follow the discipline or grievance procedure prior to terminating a person's employment. Otherwise a procedure like the example set out below should be used. It is important to keep in mind that many disputes can be prevented by the development of clear employment policies, including a full and up-to-date job description and employment contract if appropriate. Despite these precautions, disputes can develop in any work situation for a wide variety of reasons.
It is not always necessary to proceed through the whole process if the issue is resolved at any stage. Conversely, you may shorten the process if a person is to be dismissed quickly (called a summary dismissal), for example, for reasons of serious misconduct. However, the process should be logical and clear.
- First Warning - Verbal - An employee should be told as soon as possible of any complaint concerning his/her conduct or performance. Complaints must be specific and be referable to the job description, contract of employment, relevant policies or the terms of the applicable industrial instrument. Complaints such as: "She can't get along with us" or "He hasn't got commitment" are not specific.
- Prior to the commencement of any formal disciplinary meeting with the employee, the employee should be provided with the opportunity to bring a support person to the meeting. A support person may be an union representative, friend or family member or a fellow work colleague.
- After verification of the facts from the employee and employer (or supervisor), the relevant supervisor, manager or staff coordinator should discuss the complaint with the employee. An outline as to how the employee could improve his/her conduct or performance within a suitable period of time should be provided. The employee may be entitled to have his/her nominated representative attend this discussion if desired.
- A record of these discussions and any agreements or decisions reached in the meeting should be written down and signed by the employee for future reference if necessary.
- The matter should be followed up at the end of the nominated period of time, even if the problem does not continue.
- Second Warning - Written - If the problem continues, the employee should be given written notice of the complaints against him/her. The relevant supervisor, manager or staff coordinator should discuss the complaints with the employee. The supervisor should inform the employee of the specific complaints. The employee should be given a right of reply and be able to discuss the complaints made against him/her. The supervisor should refer to the outline provided in Step 1. Any failures to satisfy the outline should be noted and discussed. The employee is entitled to be represented at this meeting by a person of his/her choice.
- The aim of the meeting is to resolve the dispute. If this is not possible, the two parties should negotiate how the situation may be improved. For example, a further outline may be provided or both the employee and the supervisor might undertake to do certain things or change certain things within a trial period. A review would take place after this trial period. Where a time for review is set, it should be adhered to, even if the problem does not continue.
- In appropriate circumstances, the matter may need to be referred to the management committee.
- Final Warning - Written - If the problem still persists, a special meeting of the management committee should be called and the employee should be given written notice to attend (including details of the alleged complaints). The employee has the right of reply and should be able to discuss the complaints made against him/her and any other relevant circumstances. The employee is entitled to have representatives of his/her choice attend the meeting.
- Previous warnings and outlines about how to rectify deficiencies in conduct or performance should be referred to; in particular, any failures to satisfy these outlines within the set time periods should be noted and discussed.
- The matter should be fully discussed and further action may be considered. It is up to the two parties to negotiate what this action might be, but in any case the employee is given written notice being a "Final Written Warning".
- In the event that time periods are set, they should be adhered to, even if the problem does not continue.
- Show cause letter – If the problem persists, a "show cause" letter may be addressed to the employee. This letter should detail the history of the conduct or performance matters and the allegations and findings against the employee. It should provide the employee with an opportunity to provide any explanation or excuse or otherwise show just cause as to why their employment should not be terminated. The employee is usually then given a time period within which to respond.
- Termination of Employment - If the problem persists, or the response to the show cause letter is unsatisfactory, another special meeting of the management committee should be called and a decision made about whether employment of the employee should continue. The committee might wish to consider alternatives such as a final formal Dispute Resolution Meeting as a further attempt to resolve the problem. Alternatively, the management committee may, at this point, decide upon termination of employment.
- If dismissed, the employee should be provided with written notice of termination and given notice or a payment in lieu of notice.
The area of industrial relations continues to change rapidly. Therefore organisations are encouraged to regularly check their legal position carefully in all employment matters, and particularly where termination of employment is contemplated.
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