Disciplinary Process – When things don’t go right - 5 things you should NEVER say when dismissing an employee


Managing employees: The HR essentials all employers and managers need to know!


Video Six – Disciplinary Process – When things don’t go right

Hi, and welcome to video seven in our HR Essential series, Managing Employees: Everything Employers Need to Know. I’m Kath from Compass Business Support, and again I’m joined by Paulette from Fresh HR Insights. Hi, Paulette. How are you?

I’m good. This is so exciting, our seventh one.

Our seventh video. I know. Super exciting, and we’re delivering great value to everyone to learn all about what you need to know about managing your employees.

Today we’re talking about the disciplinary procedures. Okay, so what to do when things don’t go right. So, Paulette, could you just walk us through, today, what happens when something doesn’t go right? How are you supposed to manage that?

Okay, it’s always nice to try and start informally and ask someone, “Hey, look, what’s going on?” But that doesn’t always work. If it’s a serious matter, then I do recommend that you will need to be mindful of what’s in your contracts of employment and your policies suspending someone on full pay pending an investigation.

It means that you get them out of the workplace, and it allows you to do an investigation of what’s going on. It also preserves your right later on, as well, when you do that. And then carry out a full investigation. So here you really need to think about being fair in any process and natural justice as well.

So, you do an investigation, find out what’s gone on, and then you’d actually call them in for a meeting and actually setting out the allegations to them. In that letter you’d need to offer them a support person, so when it comes to unfair dismissal Fair Work will look at whether a person was provided a support person or allowed a support person, or whether it was unreasonably refused to allow them a support person. You’d have a meeting with them, you’d put the allegations to them, you’d listen to what they’ve got to say, and then you can form an outcome from that, whether it’s going to be a verbal warning, a first written, second written and third and final, or whether, depending on the severity of it, you may go to termination.

So, it can be an instant dismissal depending on the severity of what has happened to bring them into that disciplinary meeting, is that correct?

So, if it’s really, really, really rare, like if they’d punched someone in the face in the workplace and a lot of violence and everything, you’ve got all the proof, you could dismiss someone, which means they’re not going to pay their notice period.Or if it’s gross misconduct, then they get paid their notice period.

So now, back in the day, I suppose, there was always that three written warning process. Is that not always the case now?

It depends on what the severity of what’s happened. Say, for example, if you were putting the company’s name into disrepute, falsifying records, that may not be quite enough to terminate because maybe they weren’t aware of the full things they were meant to be doing, maybe the policies weren’t in place for whatever reason, you could put them on a first and final written warning and pop that on your file for a period of, say, four to six months, as an example, and then have follow-up meetings to go over what’s required of them and how they’re getting on and whether those incidences have happened again.

And you would always have them there. There’ll be follow on meetings from this, the first one being on such and such date. Should something similar or this happen again, you may face further disciplinary action that could lead up to and include termination of employment.

So, I guess the key, too, is to make sure that everything’s documented-


… the whole process documented.

Definitely. If it’s not written down, it didn’t happen, so you need to ensure procedural fairness when you’re dealing with disciplinaries, you need to give them the opportunity to improve if it’s a performance matter. If it’s a conduct matter, you need to set out what the conduct actually was, what was unacceptable about it, what the person needs to do to improve, and if the person needs training you need to be able to provide that training and be shown to be providing that training as well.

So, you can’t just say, “You can’t do the job. You’re not doing a good enough job. You’re gone.”

No. You’ve got to be really aware of unfair dismissal. And it’s not hard for an employee to take an unfair dismissal claim against you, and it just causes paperwork for you that to defend it, you would have the procedures in place, the letters in place, you’ve actually followed through, you’ve given them all opportunities, you allowed them to have a support person there, and it’s a fair, it’s a just and it’s a reasonable response to what’s actually happened.

Okay, and I guess if people are stuck and unsure what to do, if that situation arises in the workplace, it would be a really great idea to call yourself so that they can get the right advice and make sure they’re handling the process correctly.

What I recommend people do, I certainly recommend this to my clients, if the staff member’s done something wrong, zip your mouth, walk into your office, close the door and phone me. Don’t overreact, because the overreaction could get you in more hot water and be costlier to fix than just giving me a call in the first place. So that’s what I say to them: Zip, walk into your office, close your door and phone me. I have 24/7 support for all my clients, so I’m there for them. They get me, not a call centre.

Yeah, that’s right. So, I think that’s the best advice. If in doubt, call Paulette. That’s the way to go. Is there anything else that you wanted to add today?

No. Just really, if you see someone starting to do something wrong, just nip it in the bud straightaway. Don’t let things escalate.

Good point. Get onto it early. Don’t let it drag on. Absolutely.

Okay, well, thank you very much. This is our seventh video, as I said, and we look forward to seeing you next month.



Fact Sheet – Disciplinary Process

Formal Disciplinary Hearing Invitation

Warning Letter Template

Plain English Disciplinary Policy 

5 things you should NEVER say when dismissing an employee