What is a Discipline and Grievance Procedure?

What is a disciplinary and what is a grievance. Discipline and Grievance procedure

Disciplinary and grievance procedures can be used to resolve all sorts of problems that may arise in the workplace. Businesses and companies have performance standards for employees to adhere to, and if these are not met companies can file disciplinary measures. Employees can also file grievances if they wish to express formal concerns about work or unfair company treatment.

Discipline and Grievance Overview

A disciplinary procedure is a tool that companies can use to deal with problems relating to employee conduct. Therefore, they are put in place to “govern the steps an employer should follow when an employee is performing unsatisfactorily”[1]. Poor employee conduct or performance can be a result of numerous things, including an unexplained period of absence for a long amount of time or behaving badly at work. The organisation may choose to resolve the issue with the person at fault informally or through a meeting but if this is not appropriate, they can launch a disciplinary hearing.

In contrast, grievance procedures can be used by employees to voice concerns relating to their own problems or complaints they may have about the company or any situation that relates to their employment. As with disciplinary action, raising an issue with your employer could and should be done informally before anything else, in order to quickly solve the issue at hand. If this is not possible, then an employee can write a letter of grievance following company policy which should be detailed in writing. This should be included in documents like an employment contract or a company handbook, which may be referred to by both parties during the process.

Both of these practices can be detailed in the Acas (Advisory, Conciliation Arbitration Service) code of practice which employers can use to ensure a fair and transparent process. The code states that “although organisations can be flexible about how formal or extensive their procedures need to be, there is a statutory procedure they must follow as a minimum”[2]. Although employers are not legally obliged to use the code of practice, the employee will have a much larger pay-out if they win and the company did not use the code, so employers are advised to use it.

What are the Similarities and Differences?

Disciplinary measures, according to the UK Government, loosely follow these four steps:

  1. A letter or email stating the issue at hand addressed straight to the employee in question
  2. A meeting for employer and employee to discuss the issue
  3. A decision made by the company
  4. A chance for the employee to appeal the decision

The differences are of course found in who makes the claim and the aim of it as outlined above, as companies can file disciplinary claims against employees, who may file complaints against their employer if standards aren’t met.

However, there are similarities during the two methods as they aim to secure the same employee rights regarding appeals and processes. Using the Acas code of practice as guidelines, they together loosely follow the above 4 steps. During the meeting, both types of claim allow for the employee to be accompanied by a member of a trade union or a colleague to act as a second pair of eyes. If the employee feels that they are being treated unfairly by the employer and the conclusions they have made, then both allow for an appeal against the decisions made. Both also allow for the employer to make a claim to a UK employment tribunal if they feel their employer hasn’t been fair and transparent during the process, which could lead to a compensation pay-out.

You can view our Discipline and Grievance online training course here.


[1] https://www.scomo.com/services-for-business/employment-law/disciplinary-and-grievance-procedures.html

[2] http://www.acas.org.uk/media/pdf/o/q/H02_1.pdf