When an employee repeatedly fails to follow company policy, do you have a progressive disciplinary procedure in place to address the situation?
Explain basic work rules in your employee handbook
Every business should articulate its basic work rules in an employee handbook. These policies govern the conduct and performance of employees such as absences, tardiness, substance abuse, insubordination and theft.
The handbook should be clear about the consequences for violating basic work rules and state that other unwritten circumstances may warrant disciplinary action or termination. It’s a good idea to have a new hire sign a form indicating that they have read the handbook and agree to its terms.
Performance problems vs. policy violations
Employees should make every effort to learn their job and perform at a satisfactory level as a condition of employment. However, if poor performance is the reason for considering termination, supervisors should determine if opportunities for training and improvement would help correct the situation.
Violations of policy – such as tardiness or discourtesy – are easier to determine and can be documented and tracked to the date of offense. Like performance issues, policy violations can be counseled; however, continued problematic behavior should result in a citation or disciplinary action.
Best practices for disciplinary actions and termination
An effective and progressive termination procedure should include:
- A verbal warning is a typical first step. The best practice is to document this discussion.
- If the problem persists, or a significant violation occurs, the next step is a written warning.
- The last step before termination is a final written warning.
The final written warning, to be signed by the employee, should include the statement, “I read this disciplinary action and understand it. I understand that failure to correct this issue or to follow the Company’s normal rules of conduct or standards of performance may result in further disciplinary action, up to and including immediate termination of my employment.” This will address questions frequently asked during an unemployment hearing on whether the employee knew their job was in jeopardy.