Do As You Are Told! Health And Safety And Workplace Discipline

Author:Ms Louise O'Byrne and Kevin Langford
Profession:Arthur Cox

Discipline in the Workplace

Discipline in the workplace is the means by which employers address behavioural issues and non-compliance with company policies and procedures. Disciplinary procedures set out the stages and processes the employer will follow in relation to alleged shortcomings of an employee. Generally, disciplinary procedures are progressive allowing for informal warnings leading to written warnings and ultimately to dismissal.

The Labour Relations Commission published a Code of Practice on Grievance and Disciplinary Procedures in 2000 (S.I No. 146 of 2000). The main purpose of this Code of Practice is to provide guidance to employers, employees and their representatives on the general principles which apply in the operation of grievance and disciplinary procedures. This Code is not legally binding but sets the basic standards which are expected from workplace disciplinary rules.

Fair Procedures

The importance of fair procedures is underlined by section 5(b) of the Unfair Dismissals (Amendment) Act 1993 in the following terms: in determining if a dismissal is unfair regard should be had for (a) the reasonableness or otherwise of the conduct (whether by act or omission) of the employer in relation to the dismissal and (b) to the extent (if any) of the compliance or failure to comply by the employer, in relation to the employee, with any agreed procedures. Employees should be informed about the disciplinary procedures operating in the workplace. Procedures should be clear and transparent.

The level of fair procedures that are required will depend on the nature of the allegations and the possible consequences. The higher the stakes for the employee the higher the standards that will be required.

The general principles of natural justice and fair procedures include:

that details of any allegation or complaint are put to the employee concerned; that the employee is given the opportunity to respond fully to any such allegations; that the employee concerned is given the opportunity to avail of the right to be represented (by work colleague, union representative or possibly legally); that the employee concerned has the right to a fair and impartial determination of the issues concerned; and that the employee is afforded a right to an internal appeal against an adverse finding made and/or sanction imposed. Employee Discipline and Health and Safety

Section 13 of the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act 2005 (the "2005 Act")...

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