Write a Disciplinary Action Policy

Write a Disciplinary Action Policy

Disciplinary action policy at work
  • Disciplinary action in the workplace is any response to misbehavior or rule-breaking at work.
  • A disciplinary action policy identifies and standardizes procedures for responding to incidents that violate company policy.
  • The three main types of disciplinary action policies are progressive discipline, retraining and performance improvement plans (PIP), and reassignment or suspension.
  • This article is for small business owners, human resources professionals, and managers who want to learn what constitutes a disciplinary action policy and how they can create a policy for their company.

Though it's an uncomfortable subject, discipline in the workplace is often necessary. Companies need a disciplinary action policy. Before moving forward with implementing this type of policy yourself, it is important to understand what a disciplinary action policy is, when you might need one and how to develop one of your own.

What is a disciplinary action policy?

A disciplinary action policy identifies and standardizes procedures for responding to incidents that go against company policy. A well-written disciplinary action policy clearly states your company's rules and the consequences that happen if those rules are broken.

What should a disciplinary action policy include?

Your disciplinary action policy should include the following six components:

  1. Policy overview: This section explains the steps that will be taken to address employee misconduct or failure to perform.
  2. Statement of at-will employment: This portion of the policy states that all employees of your company work at will and can be terminated at any time, for any reason.
  3. The forms of discipline and the steps that will be taken: In this section, your policy should state each step that will be taken to address an issue and the form, or forms, of discipline that will be administered. Clearly state what each step will include and the reasons that will constitute moving the issue to the next step. This section should also explicitly state what the requirements are for managers, such as documenting each step of the process and keeping employees fully informed.
  4. Explanation of the steps in the disciplinary process and which infractions begin at which step: Include detailed descriptions of each step and what the employee can expect, as well as any infractions that will not follow the steps in chronological order. For example, tardiness issues may begin at step one, which involves the manager giving the employee a verbal warning, while major offenses will begin at step three, which might be suspension.
  5. A statement regarding an employee's right to appeal a decision: Your policy should include a statement stating any employee who believes they were not treated fairly or properly can appeal disciplinary decisions to the appropriate party, such as HR. Outline the steps on how employees can appeal a decision.
  6. Statements that offer the company legal protections: You should also include legal protections for your business, as there are several potential legal ramifications if you do not carefully design your disciplinary policy. To avoid legal issues, your disciplinary policy should:
  • Include a statement that protects your right to terminate employees at will
  • Inform employees about unacceptable behaviors
  • Provide consistent, fair discipline guidelines
  • Prevent managers from inconsistent, illegal or abusive discipline
  • Require documentation and collected evidence of employee behavior issues
A disciplinary action policy identifies and standardizes procedures for responding to incidents that go against company policy. The disciplinary policy should include a statement that employment is at will, it should outline the discipline that will be taken, it should explain that employees can appeal a decision, and it should include statements that provide legal protections for your business.

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