It's important that you tell your employees about your rules on acceptable and unacceptable behaviour in the workplace, and the consequences of breaching them.
Setting out disciplinary rules
Your disciplinary rules should cover:
- health and safety
- personal appearance
- discrimination, bullying and harassment
- smoking, and alcohol and drugs consumption
- use of company facilities and equipment for personal reasons in work time
- internet/social media usage
Note that sometimes rule breaches on absence may be more appropriately dealt with as a capability matter. The Labour Relations Agency can advise on this. Your rules should make it clear that if an employee doesn't meet the minimum standards of conduct, you may begin disciplinary action against them.
The rules should also give examples of what behaviour you will treat as gross misconduct. This is misconduct judged so serious that it will lead to dismissal without notice, such as:
- drunkenness or drug abuse
- fighting at work
- gross negligence or insubordination
- serious breaches of health and safety rules
- wilful damage to property
- use of the internet or email to access pornographic, obscene or offensive material
- accessing confidential information deliberately when not entitled to
- bringing the organisation into serious disrepute
Make it clear that the list is not exhaustive. What counts as gross misconduct varies depending on the type of business and the role of the employee.
(It would only be in extreme cases that general bullying and harassment would be considered gross misconduct. Allegations of bullying and any allegations of discrimination, victimisation or harassment would be dealt with as a disciplinary matter with only the most serious issues being considered as gross misconduct for a first offence.)
Your disciplinary procedure should be set out in writing, follow the principles set out in the Labour Relations Agency (LRA) Code of Practice on Disciplinary and Grievance and, at the very least, comply with the statutory disciplinary and dismissal procedures.
If you unreasonably fail to follow the statutory procedures, or your own enhanced dismissal/disciplinary procedure and the issue ends up at an industrial tribunal or statutory arbitration hearing, any compensation awarded could be increased by between 10 and 50 per cent.