Disciplinary Procedure, Steps, Guidelines and Importance
Disciplinary procedure/action is a systematic approach used by an employer to manage indiscipline in the workplace. It defines all kinds of discipline, the presentation and document of warnings, representation at disciplinary interviews, time duration for investigation, and rights of appeal.
According to Michael J. Jucius, “Disciplinary action means the steps taken on the disobedience of an order and to remove the reasons of such disobedience”.
According to Salamon, “Disciplinary action is taken by management against an individual or group who have failed to conform to the rules established by management within the organisation”.
According to S.W. Booyens, “A disciplinary procedure outlines the formal process adopted whenever an employee breaks the rules of the undertaking or commits any other act which might be in breach of the contract of employment”.
Steps in Disciplinary Procedure
The disciplinary procedure includes various steps which are as follows:
1) Preliminary Investigation: No disciplinary action can be taken by the management until they are confirmed of the misconduct done by any employee. For this, authorities conduct a preliminary investigation. The main aim of this preliminary investigation is to confirm whether any violation has been conducted or not and what is the severity of that violation. Depending upon the degree of severity of the violation, investigating officer can either warn or give a charge sheet to the accused (if the violation is minor) and take strict actions like termination in case of a major violation of rules.
2) Issue of a Charge Sheet: A charge sheet is a “show-cause notice” which explains the misconduct done by the employee and the reason for the misconduct in written form. Once the preliminary investigation is done and it becomes clear that the misconduct is done by an employee, the investigating officer can formulate a charge sheet as soon as possible. It is not a punishment but a warning letter for the violator to make him realise his mistakes and alerts him of the consequences if he violates the rules. But one thing that the investigator should keep in his mind before framing a charge sheet is the aptness of the punishment according to the misconduct committed.
3) Consideration of the Explanation: The employee on receiving the charge sheet can:
i) Accept the Charges: Submit his explanation accepting the charges mentioned in the charge sheet. He can request management to be lenient. But, if the explanation submitted by the employee is unsatisfactory, then a further enquiry should be done by the management before awarding any kind of punishment. Based on the charges admitted, the enquiry officer must record findings, in the presence of the employee and duly sign by him.
ii) Refuse the Charges: In case of refusal of charges, the employee can submit his explanation for refusing the charge sheet. In such a situation, the enquiry officer must enquire about the case further, to find the real facts.
iii) Ask for an Extension of Time: Sometimes, the employee demands some more time to submit the explanation. If possible, the period should be extended.
iv) Fails to Submit the Explanation: Finally, if the employee fails in submitting his explanation, the management can take any action against that employee.
4) Notice of Enquiry: The employee receiving the charge sheet should be informed in advance about the date. time and place of enquiry. The name of the investigating officer should also be made clear well in advance so that the employee can prepare his case accordingly. The enquiry should be normally held within a reasonable time of receiving the explanation.
5) Suspension with or without Pay: It completely depends upon the management and type of conduct whether to suspend the employee with or without pay for the indiscipline acts. A suspension letter can be given alongwith the charge sheet or even before the charge sheet. If the enquiry is not finished within the given duration, in that case, the salary should be paid to the employee for the time extended.
6) Conduct of Domestic Enquiry: A domestic inquiry must be confidentially done by the management to check whether an employee is guilty of his misconduct or not. It is a way of avoiding any kind of misunderstanding between the employee and the management. It gives a chance to the employee to admit his mistake or to explain the reason for committing the wrong deeds. Punishing any person without listening to him is not the correct way of judgement. Thus, the management should give them at least one chance to the violator to explain their viewpoint.
7) Recording of Findings by Enquiry Officer: Before taking any disciplinary action, the enquiry officer submits his findings to the management and then only management takes the step against any indiscipline. These findings are based on opinions given by other co-workers, the evidence collected from different sources, the charges made, the explanation given by the culprit and finally his own opinion and capability to decide the true and false facts. However, the enquiry officer should mention the proved and unproved charges.
8) Awarding of Punishment: After viewing the previous history of the employee and the results of the investigations and enquiries against that employee, the management decides the degree of punishment for that employee. This punishment is mainly based on the degree of misconduct done by the employee.
9) Communication of Punishment: Once the decision is taken by the management regarding the punishment to be given to the culprit, it should be properly conveyed to the concerned employee as soon as possible.
The correspondence of the punishment must explain:
i) The reason for the charge sheet issued to the employee.
ii) The reasons and methods of enquiry,
iii) Results of the investigations done by the officers,
iv) Decisions are taken by the management regarding the actions to be taken or not,
v) Kind of punishment.
vi) Date from which the punishment will be applicable.
Guidelines for Disciplinary Procedure
Guidelines that should be kept in mind to maintain a proper disciplinary procedure are as follows:
1) Prompt Action should be Taken: If there is any kind of violation or misconduct against the rules and regulations by any employee, timely action must be taken against that employee. Appropriate enquiries should be done and penalties should be imposed on the culprit. This step will surely avoid any kind of violations by the other employees any further.
2) Proper Documentation of Misconduct: In case any negative consequences arise after taking disciplinary action, the management must have some written evidence against the misconduct done by the employee. Thus, the authority must have proper documents of misconduct as evidence.
3) Supervisors should be Trained: Well-qualified and well-trained officers should be given the responsibility of maintaining discipline in the organisation. Supervisors and managers should be very clear about when and how to use the discipline policy. Abrupt actions should be avoided as they may be damaging to the organisation.
4) Disciplinary Action should be Fair: Disciplinary actions taken by the management should be fair and impartial. It does not matter whether the violation is small or big, committed by a higher-level employee or by a lower-level employee, the punishment should be equal and fair. Besides this, the culprit should be given at least one chance to clear his point.
5) Disciplinary Action should be taken in Private: Though discipline is an important aspect of the organisation, rather than punishing an undisciplined employee or making fun of him in front of his colleagues, it is much better to rectify his erroneous behaviour by taking appropriate steps,
6) Procedure should be Well-Defined and Periodically Reviewed: The rules and regulations introduced by the organisation for maintaining discipline should be carefully laid down. They should be very clear to all the individuals working in the organisation. Apart from that, with the changing requirements and time, the policies, rules and regulations and procedures of the company should be revised and updated.
7) Constructive Approach should be Followed: The disciplinary action should be constructive. The disciplinary actions should focus on avoiding the violations rather than imposing penalties.
Importance of Discipline
Discipline plays a vital role in the proper functioning of an organisation. Its importance is given below:
1) Improves Employee Behaviour: Rules and regulations of a particular organisation help in checking the behaviour of the employees and correcting them from time to time. Rather than penalising the employees, a code of conduct can keep their discipline.
2) Provides Security to Employees: Every individual working in an organisation has a different nature and behaves accordingly. Bad behaviour or misconduct of certain employees affects their fellow workers too. Thus, a proper discipline policy can protect the high performers of the company from getting influenced by such indisciplined employees. The discipline policy should mention the consequences of the misconduct done by certain employees. This policy is a way of providing security to other disciplined employees of the organisation.
3) Improves Performance: A proper discipline policy makes employees work effectively. If an organisation has an appropriate employee-discipline agenda, it can easily deal with several problems created by the employees. These problems may include disobedience of law and order of the company, non-desirable. performance by the employees and absence of concentration, non-dedication towards the duties and wastage of time at the workplace.
4) Increases Organisation’s Profit: If proper discipline is maintained among the employees in an organisation, automatically a friendly environment will be created which will push the employees to perform more efficiently. Once an effective input is given by the employees, the output in turn will be profitable to the organisation. So, it is a very general philosophy that organisations with proper employee discipline policies not only hold their employees for a longer period but also attract more young blood.