Last Updated 1 Oct 2022 in Ways of Working
We know that most of our colleagues are committed to doing a great job for the Society, but if conduct slips below what’s expected sometimes we may need to carry out disciplinary action.
Key points covered:
- What happens before disciplinary action is taken
- The disciplinary procedure process
- How to appeal
About this Policy
This disciplinary procedure sets out a clear framework to ensure good standards of conduct are achieved and maintained. The Society will deal with any disciplinary matter in a fair, supportive and confidential manner.
If a colleague is dissatisfied with any ongoing disciplinary proceedings, they should raise this during the disciplinary procedure and not through our grievance procedure (for example during the disciplinary hearing or appeal stage). If a grievance is raised during the disciplinary procedure the Society will assess the appropriateness of whether to handle matter as a separate grievance process or as part of the ongoing disciplinary process.
Before invoking the formal procedure, the Society will consider whether it is appropriate to invoke an informal process of counselling and coaching in the first instance, for example for very minor issues of misconduct. Where informal actions have been unsuccessful or if it is a more serious matter, the formal disciplinary procedure will be implemented. In the case of serious misconduct or continued failure to reach acceptable standards of conduct, the formal disciplinary procedure can lead to dismissal, whether that be with or without notice.
This policy applies to all colleagues (whether employed on a full-time, part-time, fixed term or permanent basis), it does not apply to agency staff and contractors.
This policy does not form part of any contract of employment and the Society may amend it at any time.
In the first instance, line managers will look to resolve minor conduct issues as part of day-to-day management.
It may be necessary for the line manager to investigate the misconduct issue in the first instance, before deciding how to proceed with the disciplinary procedure. The procedure involved will depend on the circumstances but may involve gathering any relevant documents, monitoring conduct and, if appropriate, interviewing the colleague and/or other individuals confidentially regarding the misconduct issue.
An informal meeting to discuss minor misconduct will not result in formal disciplinary action, therefore there is no right for a colleague to be accompanied. However, representation may be permitted in certain situations, for example where it helps colleague overcome any disability, or difficulty in understanding.
The line manager will make a record of conversation and where appropriate, a record of conversation will be kept on record for 6 months, after this it will no longer be considered for the purposes of any future disciplinary action. The formal procedure should be used for more serious cases, or in any case where an earlier informal discussion has not resulted in a satisfactory improvement.
Informal discussions may help:
Set out the standards required and discuss the areas of concern.
Establish any barriers that the colleague might be facing and consider how they could be affecting their ability to achieve the required standards.
Agree suitable expectations for improvement and confirm timescales, if the informal stage is unsuccessful the formal disciplinary procedure will be followed.
Colleagues are asked to speak to their line manager if any issues may be related to a disability so that appropriate support can be put in place.
If when discussing the suspected minor misconduct issue, it becomes apparent that it is more serious than first thought and the informal stage is no longer appropriate, the line manager will inform the colleague and instigate the formal disciplinary procedure.
Formal Disciplinary Procedure
The Society reserves the right to suspend a colleague pending the outcome of any formal disciplinary procedure. The suspension will be for no longer than is necessary to carry out the investigation and/or the disciplinary process. Any suspension shall be confirmed in writing and colleagues will continue to receive their basic pay and benefits during the period of suspension.
During any period of suspension, the colleague should not access the Society’s premises unless authorised to do so. Colleagues should refrain from discussing the ongoing disciplinary procedure with any of our clients, customers, suppliers, contractors or colleagues and any attempt to influence others involved in the investigation will be dealt with under the disciplinary procedure.
Where the colleague’s misconduct is the subject of a criminal investigation we can continue with our disciplinary procedure. We will not usually wait for the outcome of any prosecution before deciding what action, if any, to take.
Line managers should contact their HR Advisor if they suspect criminal activity.
A criminal investigation, charge or conviction relating to conduct outside work may be treated as a disciplinary matter if we consider that it is relevant to the colleague’s employment and has the possibility of bringing the Society into disrepute.
No formal disciplinary action will be taken against a colleague until the case has been investigated, either during an investigation process or as part of a disciplinary hearing.
Any meetings and discussions as part of an investigation are solely for the purpose of fact-finding. Where a colleague requests a work colleague or trade union representative to accompany them at an investigation meeting, the Society will seek to accommodate the request it if it does not cause an unreasonable delay in the process.
The amount of any investigation required will depend on the nature of the allegations and will vary from case to case. It may involve interviewing and taking statements from the colleague and any witnesses, and/or reviewing relevant documents and/or footage. The investigation will be carried out by an investigating officer appointed by the Society. Colleagues must co-operate fully and promptly in any investigation.
Following any investigation, if it is considered there are grounds for disciplinary action, a disciplinary hearing manager will be appointed by the Society, and the colleague will be invited to attend a disciplinary hearing. All colleagues will be given the opportunity to state their case before any final disciplinary decision is made.
An invitation to attend a disciplinary hearing will always be communicated in writing, in advance of the hearing, outlining the alleged misconduct which will be discussed during the disciplinary hearing.
In some circumstances, where it may not be possible to hold a face-to-face meeting under this procedure, we may look to conduct the process remotely. We will ensure that the colleague and their representative have access to the necessary technology for participating. The colleague’s rights will not be affected, and we will ensure that the procedure remains fair and reasonable. Where this is the case, it will be explained to the colleague as part of the disciplinary process.
The Society shall permit a colleague to take reasonable time off during working hours for the purpose of accompanying another of the Society’s colleagues at a disciplinary hearing, where a colleague reasonably requests to be accompanied by that colleague at a hearing.
The person conducting the hearing shall be an appropriate Manager who has, so far as possible, not been involved in the investigation. The manager may arrange for someone else to attend as a note taker. Colleagues will have the opportunity to review the minutes taken at the end of the hearing. Colleagues are not permitted to record a disciplinary hearing under any circumstances (whether covertly or otherwise). Recording the hearing without permission may amount to an act of misconduct.
During the disciplinary hearing the misconduct allegations and the evidence gathered during the investigation will be discussed. The hearing may be adjourned if we need to carry out any further investigations where any new points that have been raised in the hearing.
The outcome of the disciplinary hearing will be confirmed in writing. No colleague will be dismissed for a first act of misconduct except in the case of gross misconduct.
All colleagues will have the right to appeal against any disciplinary sanction imposed, whether relating to their misconduct.
Right to be Accompanied
Colleagues attending any formal stage of the disciplinary procedure have the right to be accompanied by a trade union representative or a colleague. The colleague’s companion will be permitted to address the hearing and confer with the colleague during the hearing, but the companion is not allowed to answer questions on the colleague’s behalf. Colleagues must tell the manager conducting the hearing who their chosen companion is, in good time before the hearing.
If the colleague or the colleague’s chosen companion is not available at the time proposed for the hearing by the Society, the colleague must inform the Society immediately. The parties will seek to agree an alternative time which is usually within five working days of the date originally proposed by the Society. If the colleague fails to attend without good reason or are persistently unable to attend, the Society may have to hold the disciplinary hearing in the colleague’s absence and make a decision based on the available evidence including any written representations the colleague has made. Colleagues must make every effort to attend the disciplinary hearing, and failure to attend without good reason may be treated as misconduct.
Formal Disciplinary Action and Dismissal
First Written Warning - A written warning may be given for instances of misconduct that are serious enough to warrant the formal disciplinary procedure where there are no other active written warnings, or in any case where an earlier informal discussion has not resulted in a satisfactory improvement on the colleague’s disciplinary record. A copy of the written warning will be kept on the colleague’s personnel file for 9 months, subject to satisfactory conduct or performance during the nine-month period.
Final Written Warning - A final written warning is the sanction imposed for a serious incident of misconduct, even though there are no other active warnings on the colleague’s record: or further acts of misconduct where there is an active written warning on their personnel file. A copy of the final written warning will be kept on the colleague’s personnel file for 12 months, subject to satisfactory conduct during the twelve-month period.
Dismissal - Dismissal is the sanction for a very serious breach of discipline, a breach of discipline which constitutes a gross misconduct offence or may be imposed for further breaches of discipline.
If allegations of gross misconduct against a colleague is founded then the colleague will be dismissed without notice or pay in lieu of notice. In exceptional circumstances if there are mitigating circumstances, alternative disciplinary action short of summary dismissal may be taken, including dismissal with notice, extension of a final written warning and/or demotion.
Where a colleague is dismissed for a build up of sanctions the colleague will be dismissed with paid contractual notice.
Examples of gross misconduct are set out below.
After the active warning period, the warning will remain permanently on the colleague’s personnel file but will be disregarded in deciding the outcome of future disciplinary proceedings. However, in certain circumstances of misconduct, it may also be relevant to consider a warning once it has expired.
Colleagues have the right of appeal at any formal stage of the disciplinary procedure. Appeals must be lodged within five working days of receipt of the disciplinary outcome letter. Any appeal must set out the grounds of the appeal in writing. It should be sent to the person named in the outcome letter or the Head of Colleague Relations.
The Society will arrange for an appeal meeting to be conducted. The appeal will be heard by someone of appropriate seniority and experience who so far as possible, has not previously been involved in the disciplinary procedure.
The Appeal Officer will decide if the appeal is by way of re-hearing, or a review of specific points only and, if so, which points.
If a colleague appeals against dismissal, the date on which dismissal takes effect will not be delayed pending the outcome of the appeal. However, if the appeal is successful, they will be reinstated with no loss of continuity of employment or pay.
Following the appeal meeting we may:
a) confirm the original decision;
b) revoke the original decision; or
c) substitute a different sanction.
The outcome of the appeal meeting will be notified to the colleague in writing as soon as is possible and will be final.
Where colleagues feel they require additional support they should speak to their line manager in the first instance.
The Society has partnered with GroceryAid to provide colleagues with a FREE confidential helpline service. For help and advice colleagues can contact the confidential 24/7 GroceryAid Helpline by calling 08088 021 122. A live webchat is also available here. There is also a wide range of guidance and support resources available at www.groceryaid.org.uk.
We also appreciate that any disciplinary process can be stressful and impact on a colleague’s mental health, colleagues can download the Everymind mental health support app here.
Examples of conduct which may amount to gross misconduct under the Society’s procedures:
Actual or threatened physical or verbal violence towards colleagues, customers or any third party which the Society may work with.
Conduct which is discriminatory or amounts to bullying or harassment of other colleagues or workers, customers, applicants for employment or any third party which the Society may work with, whether the conduct is related to age, disability, gender reassignment, race, religion or belief, sex, sexual orientation, marriage and civil partnership and pregnancy and maternity or otherwise in breach of the Society’s policies, including Diversity and Inclusion Policy and Respect in the Workplace Policy;
Obtaining unauthorised access to, making unauthorised use of, or making unauthorised amendments to information stored on the Society’s computers, computer software or computer hardware;
Misusing the Society’s computer system, for example, by using the Society’s computer system to download, store or forward pornographic or other offensive material, or committing any other serious breach of the Society’s Acceptable Use of IT Policy and Use of Social Networks Policy;
Theft, fraud or any offence involving dishonesty or falsification of records, either from the Society, it’s colleagues, clients, customers or agents, including the unauthorised possession of any of the Society’s goods, materials or products;
Misusing the Society’s membership scheme, for example applying unauthorised discounts or serious misuse of the Colleague Discount/Membership card which results in a loss to the Society;
Refusal to carry out a reasonable management instruction;
Breach of the duty of confidentiality and failure to observe the confidential nature of information concerning the Society and the Society’s customers (subject to the Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998);
Acting in competition with the Society’s businesses;
Attendance at work under the influence of alcohol, non-prescribed drugs or an abuse of prescription drugs;
Deliberate damage to the Society’s property or property of fellow colleagues,
Serious infringement of Health and Safety rules;
Serious negligence which causes or might cause loss, damage or injury,
Misuse of the Society’s property or name;
Bringing the Society into serious disrepute (this may include misconduct committed outside of work, such as activity on social media for example);
Serious breach of contract;
Deliberate falsification of any documentation involving Society business, such as inaccurate recording of time worked, falsification of travel claims, time sheets or self-certification forms, misrepresentation on an employment application, alteration of Society records or other Society documents;
Any criminal act or conduct, whether inside or out of work, which may bring the Society into disrepute;
The failure to provide evidence of continued right to work in the UK;
Unauthorised use, processing or disclosure of personal data contrary to our Data Protection Policy;
Serious breach of a Society policy
This list is not exhaustive, and the Society will look at each case individually.
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