The 4 Progressive Steps of Employee Disciplinary Action

Addressing employee discipline isn’t fun but It’s necessary…

You have likely dealt with employee performance problems or policy violations at least a time or two. It is never in your best interest to avoid the ugly matter of employee discipline. Many times, small business owners find that this is their biggest challenge because they haven’t implemented a system for addressing it, don’t have an employee handbook, want to be a “nice guy” or think it might not be necessary at the time.

Do you know how to handle the progressive steps? Do you know the progressive steps? Why is it important? What actions constitute immediate termination?

Many times, the best advice an HR professional can give a business owner in regard to employee matters is DOCUMENT, DOCUMENT, DOCUMENT! Why? Well, for one, it will help to protect you if an employee makes a claim against you. Whether it be discrimination, unemployment or other type of claim, having disciplinary action documentation will support your position and possibly avoid legal headaches.

There are many other important benefits to having a disciplinary action plan. They include:

  • Avoids the high cost of employee turn-over
  • Creates better moral by showing employees that while there are rewards for good performance, there are also consequences for poor performance and behavior
  • Allows supervisors and managers the tools for addressing and correcting behavior at the first sign of trouble
  • Provides a fair process for handling employee issues
  • Creates better communication between employees and managers/supervisors

The standard Progressive Steps of Disciplinary Action:

1. Verbal warning/counseling

The supervisor should meet with the employee and bring attention to the behavior, conduct or performance issue(s) in question. The employee should be provided guidance on expectations and the corrective action required. While this is a “verbal” warning, it should still be documented by the supervisor and signed by the employee.

2. Written warning

This is a more formal event for addressing issues and behaviors. Generally, the supervisor would include a manager, director or officer in this meeting and review the prior incident and previously agreed upon expectations. The additional incident(s) should be discussed and documented and a formal performance improvement plan implemented that is signed off on by the employee. It should be communicated to the employee that future instances will result in additional discipline, up to and including termination of employment.

See also: An Onboarding Plan that Boosts Employee Engagement

3. Final warning and/or Suspension (if applicable)

Employees are made aware that the pattern of behavior has continued and any additional performance problems, poor behaviors or policy violations will not be tolerated. The disciplinary action paperwork should, again, include the employee signature as an acknowledgement. If immediate action is necessary to ensure the safety of employees or to conduct a formal investigation, suspension may be necessary.

4. Termination of employment

Employment ends. Request that company property (keys, equipment, tools, etc.) be returned and report final wages timely. Keep in mind that there are times when immediate termination is appropriate. In the case where a crime has been committed or the behavior is particularly egregious, it is generally appropriate to let the employee go immediately. Some examples of this are workplace violence or theft.

Have questions? Would you like more information? Your dedicated team at Employers Resource is here to provide guidance on this and other employee-relations matters. Don’t hesitate to contact us for help. Also, receive useful articles with tips like this in your inbox by signing up for our newsletter.

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