A Guide to Disciplinary, Dismissal and Grievance Procedures

The purpose of this information sheet is to provide a quick guide to Disciplinary, Dismissal and Grievance Procedures. It will also give details of where you can get further help.

The specimen Written Statements of Main Terms and Conditions of Employment on this website contain detailed Disciplinary and Dismissal Procedures (in Appendix 2 of the specimens) and Grievance Procedure (in Appendix 3 of the specimens).

We recommend very strongly that you consult the Legal Helpline Linklinked to your Employer's Insurance Company.  If you do not have access to such a Helpline, contact CILNI before starting any disciplinary, dismissal or grievance procedures.


Disciplinary procedures

The current statutory dismissal and disciplinary procedures are set out in:

  • the Employment (Northern Ireland) Order 2003 Schedule 1, Part One.

  • the Code of Practice on Disciplinary and Grievance Procedures issued by the Labour Relations Agency which came into effect by order of the Department for Employment and Learning on 3 April 2011.

Disciplinary procedures should not be seen primarily as a means of imposing sanctions on the employee but rather as a way of encouraging or modifying the behaviour of the employee whose conduct/performance is unsatisfactory.

If the dispute between you and your employee is very minor,it would be better for you and your employee to try to sort the matter out informally. Here is an example of how that might be done.


Informal action for dealing with minor issues

  1. Find out all the facts while they are still fresh in your mind and that of your employee. 

  2. Talk to your employee informally and in private.


   This is not a disciplinary hearing.

  • The purpose is not to punish but to encourage your employee and

  • improve the situation.

3.   Is there a case to answer?

  • No – That is the end of the matter. Try to make sure that no bad feelings remain between you and your employee.

  • Yes – Clarify:
    – how improvements can be made
    – when you could meet again
    – the next possible stage e.g. formal disciplinary action.


-         To offer help such as training if required

-         Keep written notes.

If the informal disciplinary action doesn’t work, or if the issue is seriousyou may need to hold a disciplinary meeting.  This meeting may lead to you needing to take further disciplinary action.


Holding a Disciplinary Meeting

If you decide to hold a formal disciplinary meeting you should tell your employee in writing:

  1. The nature of the allegation against them and provide them with any relevant information prior to the hearing,

  2. Invite them to a disciplinary hearing before deciding if disciplinary action is necessary

  3. Inform them where and when the hearing will take place.

  4. Inform them that he or she has the right to be accompanied to the meeting by a (paid or lay) trade union official or a work colleague.


- To investigate the circumstances thoroughly before the meeting. 

- To provide your employee with any relevant information in advance of the meeting. 

- Arrange an alternative meeting within five working days if your employee or the person accompanying him or her cannot attend.

- To be prepared to consider any fresh evidence.

At the meeting

During the meeting you should:

  1. State the evidence supporting the allegation.

  2. Give your employee the opportunity to put his or her case.

  3. Allow the accompanying person to ask questions.

Suspend the meeting to consider any necessary action

You should consider:

  1. Your employee’s record. 

  2. Any previous action you have taken against your employee. 

  3. Whether or not there are any special circumstances.

Decide if action is necessary

You should:

  1. Tell your employee your decision in writing. 

  2. Make your employee aware of his or her right to appeal within five days of receipt of your decision. 

  3. Monitor the situation with an open mind.


Taking Disciplinary action except for gross misconduct

When taking disciplinary action for unsatisfactory performance you should give your employee an improvement note that states:

  1. A time by when the improvement should be made. 

  2. How you intend to help your employee improve. 

  3. A date on which you will review the situation. 

  4. That your employee has the opportunity to appeal within five days of receipt of the written warning letter.

When taking disciplinary action for misconduct, you should give your employee a written warning letting him or her know:

  1. What will happen if the situation does not improve. 

  2. That he or she has the right to appeal within five days of receipt of the written warning letter.


-      The improvement note or written warning may be enough to bring the matter to a satisfactory conclusion. 

-       If the level of dissatisfaction or misconduct is serious enough, you may go straight to issuing a final written warning. 

-       Your employee has the right to be accompanied to all disciplinary or appeal meetings by a work colleague or a union official.


If the situation does not improve following a written warning and it becomes clear that a final written warning may be necessary:

  1. Advise the employee in writing of the issue/s and provide them with any relevant information (prior to the hearing).

  2. Invite them to a disciplinary hearing before deciding if further disciplinary action is necessary. 

  3. Inform them where and when the hearing will take place.

  4. Inform them that they have the right to be accompanied to the meeting by a (paid or lay) trade union official or a work colleague'

If following the meeting you decide that a final written warning is necessary:

  1. Send the written warning to the employee. 

  2. Inform your employee of his or her right to appeal.


-         If any previous warnings have expired, consider this to be a fresh case.

          *        Recorded oral warnings expire after 6 months.

          *        Written warnings expire after nine months.

          *        Final written warnings expire after 12 months.

-         You must stop any disciplinary action if the matter is satisfactorily concluded.

-         If gross misconduct occurs, your employee may be legally dismissed immediately following the procedure outlined below.



You are legally obliged to follow the minimum statutory discipline procedure before suspending your employee without pay or dismissing him or her. The procedure for taking disciplinary action or dismissing a employee is discussed later on this page.


Disciplinary Appeals

The appeal

  1. Should be requested within five working days of the original decision. 

  2. Should be heard by the most senior person with employer’s responsibilities available, who in most cases will be the Employer.  In the case of Microboards this can be the Chairperson.

At the meeting

During the appeal meeting you should:

  1. Be prepared to reverse the original decision if necessary. 

  2. Take account of any fresh evidence that becomes available. 

  3. Give your employee the opportunity to respond to the new evidence.


-          You must remind your employee of his or her right to be accompanied to the appeal by a (paid or lay) trade union official or colleague.

-          The appeal provides the chance to correct any errors in the disciplinary procedure.

Result of the appeal

After considering the appeal, within a reasonable period of time, you should:

  1. Inform your employee of the outcome of the appeal and the reasons. 

  2. Let your employee have confirmation of your decision in writing.


The Statutory Disciplinary and Dismissal Procedure
If your employee's conduct or performance fails to improve and there is no other way of remedying matter, the final stage in the disciplinary process is dismissal.

The minimum: In order to dismiss an employee, you must have at least followed the three-step: statutory disciplinary and dismissal procedure:

Step One –  Write to the employee notifying him/her of the allegation(s) against him/her and invite him/her to a meeting to discuss the  matter.

Step Two - Have a meeting with your employee – at which the employee has the right to be accompanied – and notifying the employee of your decision in writing. 

Step Three – if the employee wishes to appeal, hold an appeal meeting – at which again the employee has a right to be accompanied – and inform the employee of the final decision in writing.


-         Going as far as step two of the three-stage procedure may be sufficient to provide a satisfactory resolution.

-         If you, as the employer, fail to follow the procedure, an employment tribunal will automatically rule that any resulting dismissal is unfair.

-       Failure by you or your employee to follow the procedure will lead to adjustment of any compensation awarded.

The final stage of the process is dismissal. The employee should be informed as soon as possible of the formal reasons for dismissal and the date on which the employment will terminate.


Gross Misconduct

If the disciplinary issue is sufficiently serious, it may constitute gross misconduct and give rise to immediate dismissal.  The employer must, if possible (depending on the offence), ensure the 3 step procedure described above is followed.  The employee can be suspended on full pay while the incident is investigated.

The employer could consider allowing the employee to take annual leave during a period of suspension, but the employee would have to agree to this. If they didn’t agree, it would then revert to suspension with pay.

Acts which constitute gross misconduct arethose resulting in a serious breach of contractual terms which effectively destroy the essential bond of trust and confidence between the Employer and Employee. Examples of gross misconduct might include:
–          fraud or theft from the employer, the employer's family, friends or neighbours

-         threatening or actual physical violence

-         bullying

-         deliberate and serious damage to property

-         serious insubordination or disobedience of instructions

-         serious cases of unlawful discrimination or harassment

-         causing loss, damage or injury due to serious negligence

-         serious breach of confidence

-         verbal abuse towards me or anyone else

-         arriving for work under the influence of alcohol or illegal drugs 


The Grievance Procedure

Employers and employees often find that an informal approach to resolving grievances works best. However, if this fails and you and your employee feel the need to take a more formal route, the following steps should be complied with:

  1. Your employee should inform you of his or her grievance in writing. 

  2. You should arrange a private meeting with your employee and remind him or her of their right to be accompanied by a (paid or lay) trade union official or work colleague. 

  3. You, as the employer should hear the grievance. If you are only the Service User and someone else runs the Direct Payments package for you as "the employer", then that person should hear the appeal. 

  4. When you have considered your response, tell your employee your decision in writing.  Inform them of their right to appeal if they are unhappy with your decision.  Advise them that the request to appeal must be in writing and submitted within 5 days and they again have the right to be accompanied by a (paid or lay) trade union official or colleague. 

  5. You should inform your employee of your final decision in writing as promptly as possible.


Useful Resources

In addition to the Legal Helpline linked to your Employer's Insurance Company, there are a number of places you can get advice and information on the new legislation. They are;

      Labour Relations Agency

2- 12 Gordon Street

Belfast, BT1 2LG

Tel: 028 9032 1442

Fax: 028 9033 0827


Department for Employment and Learning

Adelaide House

39/49 Adelaide Street

Belfast BT2 8FD

Tel: 028 9025 7777

Fax: 028 9025 7778