Disciplinary procedures

The Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS) has produced a code of practice all employers should adhere to when it comes to disciplining staff and investigating misconduct.

Acas revised its Code of Practice on disciplinary and grievance procedures in 2009. You can download it from the Acas website.

When a potential disciplinary matter arises, employers are advised to make necessary investigations to establish the facts promptly, keeping a written record for later reference.

Having established the facts, the employer should decide whether to drop the matter, deal with it informally or arrange for it to be handled formally.

Formal action

ACAS says employers should:

  • let the employee know in writing what it is they are alleged to have done wrong

  • invite the individual to a meeting at which the problem can be discussed, and inform them of their right to be accompanied at that meeting

  • include copies of any documents that will be produced at the meeting.

At the meeting, the employer should explain the complaint against the employee and go through the evidence that has been gathered. Where it is decided that no action is justified the employee should be informed immediately.

ACAS says it is normally good practice to give employees at least one chance to improve their conduct before they are issued with a final written warning. However, if the misconduct is sufficiently serious, for example because it is having a serious harmful effect on the organisation, it may be appropriate to move directly to a final written warning.

In cases of gross misconduct, the employer may decide to dismiss even though the employee has not previously received a warning for misconduct.

Written warnings

If an employee is found guilty of misconduct, the usual first step would be to give them a written warning setting out the nature of the misconduct and the change in behaviour required.

The employee should be informed that the warning is part of the formal disciplinary process and what the consequences will be of a failure to change behaviour. This could be a final written warning and ultimately, dismissal.

The employee should also be informed that they may appeal against the decision.

Final warning

Where there is a failure to improve or change behaviour in the timescale set at the first formal stage, or where the offence is sufficiently serious, the employee should normally be issued with a final written warning - but only after they have been given a chance to present their case at a meeting.

The final written warning should give details of, and grounds for, the complaint. It should warn the employee that failure to improve or modify behaviour may lead to dismissal or to some other penalty, and refer to the right of appeal.


If the employee's conduct or performance still fails to improve, the final stage in the disciplinary process might be dismissal or (if the employee's contract allows it or it is mutually agreed) some other penalty such as demotion, disciplinary transfer, or loss of seniority/pay.

For more information, see the pages on dismissal.

FE national agreement on disciplinary procedures

ATL and the national employers' body (the Association of Colleges) have agreed national guidelines for colleges and FE institutions on disciplinary procedures.

Need further advice?

Your first point of contact is your ATL rep in your school or college. Your local ATL branch is also available to help with queries, or you can contact ATL's member advisors on tel: 020 7930 6441 or email us. Please have your membership number to hand when telephoning and include it with any correspondence - this will help us to answer your query more quickly.


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