The 11 most common issues raised at a disciplinary hearing

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Disciplinary and grievance procedures are an everyday aspect of many HR professionals’ working lives, but how does your experience of discipline and grievances compare to the wider profession?

Here we share the most common issues raised as the subject of a disciplinary hearing, according to new research. XpertHR asked employers how frequently, in the two years to May 2013, each of the following issues were the subject of disciplinary action. Respondents could answer “never”, “occasionally” or “frequently”.

1. General misconduct

Nearly all (93%) of those surveyed reported that the most common issue raised as the subject of a formal disciplinary hearing would be “general misconduct”, with 43% saying this was frequent and 50% describing it as occasional.

2. Poor performance/capability

The ability of someone to do their job was not far behind, with 87% of employers saying that poor performance disciplinary hearings happened either frequently or occasionally.

3. Poor timekeeping

Workers’ reliability in being in the right place at the right time was the subject of the third most common discipline issue. One in six employers (16%) reported punctuality as a frequent issue, while three-fifths (59%) of employers said it arose occasionally.

4. Unauthorised absence

Employees who have taken leave without permission were the fourth most common disciplinary offence, with seven in 10 of those surveyed saying this was either frequent or occasional.

5. Misuse of email, internet or social media

Facebook, Twitter or email misuse came next, with 58% of employers reporting this as occurring “occasionally”. Only 4% said this was a frequent issue, while 38% said it was never the subject of a formal disciplinary hearing.

6. Bullying and harassment

While 44% of respondents said bullying or harassment was never the subject of the discipline, 53% said it was occasional, and 3% said it was frequent.

7. Theft or fraud

More than half (53%) said theft/fraud was the occasional subject of a hearing, but only 2% said it was a frequent issue.

8. Health and safety

Infringements of health and safety requirements were less likely to be the subject of a hearing, with 51% saying this was never the issue; 42% saying it was occasionally; and 7% reported it as a frequent issue.

9. Violence

Violence in the workplace was further down the list, with none of the employers surveyed reporting it as a frequent subject of disciplinary hearings. A quarter (27%) said it was occasionally raised, but 73% said “never”.

10. Substance misuse

Alcohol or drug-related disciplinary hearings were similarly uncommon, with 74% saying it never came up, 25% describing it as happening occasionally, and 1% saying frequently.

11. Discrimination

The least common issue to be the subject of a disciplinary hearing was discrimination, with 81% of employers saying this never happened and 19% saying it was raised occasionally.


XpertHR discipline and grievance survey


This information on reasons for disciplinary action is taken from the 2013 XpertHR survey on discipline and grievance. The research, published on XpertHR, looks at the discipline and grievance procedures of 166 employers. In the two years examined, the organisations surveyed handled 5,145 instances of disciplinary action and 1,632 grievances.

The research looks into the disciplinary sanctions employers imposed, the causes of employee grievance, the number of resultant employment tribunal claims and the use of independent third-party intervention, including the use of the pre-claim conciliation service offered by Acas.

It also looks how one in employer in five has made changes to their HR practices following the outcome of a grievance case.


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