Developing various HR policies is a major responsibility for virtually all employers. Along with developing proper hiring policies, employers also need to develop policies outlining how workers will be disciplined when they commit infractions of work rules. Discipline gets a bad rap. Most supervisors dread it, and employees are offended at the thought. The reality is that discipline at the early stages, in particular, should be corrective in nature. It is your chance to establish company expectations and point out that the employee is not meeting them. Conduct that escalates or continues, requires increasing severity in the penalty meted out and may ultimately result in an employee being terminated for his/her/their conduct on the job. Remember as you read on, that discipline is handled differently in a unionized workforce.
Putting in the time and effort to establish fair disciplinary policies has a positive impact on employers for a number of reasons. The following are some of the most noteworthy:
When developing your company’s disciplinary policies, your top two goals should be to implement correction and do it consistently. You’re not trying to punish employees so much as you’re trying to modify certain behaviors.
Applying discipline consistently to correct behavior can promote a healthier overall working environment. If your discipline policies are effective, when applied, they will likely increase employee success and diminish repeat offenses. When employees feel as though they are being treated fairly and with respect, productivity, morale, and employee engagement increase.
Effective disciplinary policies save jobs. Identifying and addressing performance and conduct issues early retains employees and reduces turnover. The employer relationship with the current members of the workforce, is strengthened and new talent is attracted to agencies where turnover is low.
In virtually all areas of a business, having established procedures and policies helps to save time, bring consistency to the process and empowers supervisors to take ownership of the work and productivity of the employees in their department or division. You want to avoid re-inventing the wheel every time an issue arises. Time invested on the front end by drafting a policy and related forms to guide employees through work rules, corrective action, and disciplinary measures will be well spent in terms of minimizing wasted time, confusion and bad results.
Careless discipline, meaning that without documentation supporting it, or that which is administered inconsistently among similar groups of employees, sets the stage for numerous types of employment claims. Employees who feel unjustly demoted, suspended, or fired are likely to look to a reason other than their own conduct or performance—”It must be because I complained about company spending, or because I reported sexual harassment, or that I am a woman or person of color.”A policy with progressive steps, documentation, notice and transparency provisions will guide even the most frustrated supervisor through a fair process so everyone is on the same page, avoiding unnecessary legal challenges to what may have started as a reasonable managerial concern. Sometimes a challenge to discipline cannot be avoided. It is part of doing business. Even so, your policies on which you train your supervisors and employees, need to provide you with the foundation for fair and legally defensible decisions.
Just keep in mind that not all disciplinary policies are equally strong. To ensure your policies yield the best long-term results, consult with an employment lawyer with experience in personnel management.
At N. Stotler Law, offering various employment law services to clients in and around Pittsburgh, PA, our team has years of experience helping employers like yourself develop genuinely effective disciplinary policies that are legally sound. Get started today by contacting our offices online or calling us at 724-841-5565.