It's important not to just jump straight in with disciplinary proceedings, many issues can be solved with a quiet word when the issue arises.
You should address behaviours and not the individual, and have an outcome in mind before you have that quiet word though.
And after having that word, you should document the outcome and give a copy of that to the employee and keep a copy on file.
For example; Susan is consistently late. You speak to her, and tell her that her lateness is causing issues for the team who have to pick up her workload in the interim before she comes in to work, you ask if she has any problems that you should be aware of that prevent her from coming to work on time, she says there are none. You ask her to be punctual in the future, and inform her that if she is not you may have to take action.
It should take only a minute or two to document this. It is important to document all actions that may later result in disciplinary action because:
If an issue persists you will need to take action, before you do so. You must:
1. Invite the Employee to a Hearing
Representation can be either a colleague within the organisation or a union representative, you may (if you choose) allow other representation if these are unavailable but it is not required that you do so. You may not unreasonably prevent a colleague from being a representative.
The representative should be informed that they are not to act as a "defence counsel" but rather are there to offer support, to take notes of the proceeding and to ask for clarification at any point throughout the proceeding.
2. Hold the Hearing
Don't hold the hearing on your own, the company should have a second representative present to take notes and record the outcome.
Ideally the hearing should not be adversarial, the objective is not to punish but to enable improvement for the individual.
You should not attack or ridicule the individual in anyway, you must concentrate solely on the issue in hand.
After this is done, you should...
3. Pause the Hearing
It's time for a break, let the individual employee go for a coffee with their representative while you decide what action to take.
You should decide several things.
Do you need to take action at all? It is possible that new information has come to light and you need to investigate other issues instead of this one.
If you do need to take action, do you need to take legal advice before doing so? There are some very difficult areas in labour law, if the individual is part of a protected group, is pregnant or is ill - you should take legal advice before proceeding, some illnesses are classified as disabilities under the DDA and other similar problems are not - you can hold off on a decision until you have taken this advice.
If you are going to take action, determine: What action is required from the individual, specific, measurable instructions are required here. What support/help/training you will offer to enable the individual to achieve the target required. And what timescale this is required in. And finally, what stage of the disciplinary process you will invoke.
4. The Stages of Disciplinary Action
The law is quite clear that you do not have to exhaust every step on the ladder and you may choose (based on the severity of the problem) to start at any stage, including dismissal if the issue has been found to be gross misconduct.
Note: You must follow the whole procedure again, from start to finish each time you wish to proceed to the next step of the disciplinary process, you cannot just issue warnings without hearings, notification, etc.
Before returning to the hearing you should formalise both the actions required and the action taken in writing, so that the employee can sign for the result during the final part of the process. You MUST include in the letter, the right to appeal as the employee has the legal right to challenge any disciplinary action to a higher level of management. You should retain a signed copy of this letter in the employee's file.
5. Resume the Hearing
The employee and their representative should be called back to the hearing, and made aware of the decisions. You should ask the employee to sign for receipt of the letter detailing the actions taken and required of the, you need to stress the right to appeal and to offer any assistance that may be needed from management to enable the employee to succeed.
Except in the case of dismissal, you should thank the employee for taking part in the process and wish them success in their endeavours to resolve the issue.
6. Follow Up
After the hearing, you must follow up to ensure that the employee has met their targets in the agreed timeframe and if they have not you should start further disciplinary action.
It is not acceptable to ask someone to improve in a week, and then follow up 6 months later and continue the process. This is not fair to the business or the individual.