# Disciplinary procedures

Generally recourse to formal disciplinary procedures should only be taken once all reasonable efforts have been made to remedy such difficulties by informal means. The verbal warning is the first stage of the disciplinary procedure and should not be confused with informal discussion stages. It is the view of Agile Collective that an informal approach taken at an early stage will prove more productive and less problematic than taking steps once a problem has become serious.

If, after a reasonable time, a particular strategy has not remedied the situation or, in the case of more serious misconduct, it may be appropriate for the co-op to invoke the formal disciplinary procedures outlined below.

# General notes

If an employee or member is charged with, or convicted of, a criminal offence not related to work, this is not in itself reason for disciplinary action. Similarly, an employee or member should not be dismissed solely because they are absent from work as a result of being in custody or at court appearances.

# Procedure applicable to formal meetings within the disciplinary process

The following procedure will apply to all formal meetings (i.e. not the Informal Discussion stage) within the disciplinary process. The People Circle will appoint a disciplinary panel of 3 members and the panel will invite the individual concerned to discuss the situation at a formal meeting.

The individual concerned will be given at least one week’s notice and the letter or email should contain enough information for the individual to be able to understand both what it is they are alleged to have done wrong and the reasons why this is not acceptable, and any documents that will be used at the meeting should be included or otherwise made easily available. The time and place should ideally be agreed with the individual, and if this is not possible it should be at a time and place where it can be reasonably expected that the individual will be able to make.

At all meetings the individual concerned is entitled to be accompanied by a person of their choice. The individual should be given the opportunity to ask questions and present evidence.

If the individual cannot attend the meeting, they should inform a member of the disciplinary panel in advance whenever possible. If the individual fails to attend through circumstances outside their control and unforeseeable at the time the meeting was arranged (e.g. illness) another meeting should be arranged. A decision may be taken in the individual’s absence if they fail to attend the re-arranged meeting without good reason. If the individual’s companion cannot attend on a proposed date, another date can be suggested so long as it is reasonable and is no more than five working days after the date originally proposed. This five day time limit may be extended by mutual agreement.

Where applicable the individual will be informed of the consequences of failure to improve.

Written records of proceedings should be kept for a period in accordance with the co-op’s data protection policies. Copies should be provided to the individual in question. Records should include:

  • the complaint against them, including any evidence of misconduct;
  • details of their defence, as appropriate;
  • any findings made and actions taken;
  • the reasons for actions taken;
  • whether an appeal was lodged;
  • the outcome of any appeal;
  • any grievances raised during the disciplinary procedure; and
  • subsequent developments.

At each stage the right to appeal shall be given within one month of the meeting. The appeal will be heard by a full meeting of the co-op within fifteen working days of the appeal being made and the appellant will be given at least ten working days notice of the meeting. The individual is entitled to be accompanied by a person of their choice.

The meeting may decide:

  1. to uphold the disciplinary measure;
  2. to uphold part of the measure but vary some of the conditions imposed, so long as such variation does not result in more severe conditions than originally set;
  3. to reject the measure.

# Stages of the disciplinary procedure

The normal expectation is for a discipline case to progress through the following levels. In cases where misconduct or unsatisfactory performance is considered to be serious then the procedure may begin at later stages. Guidance on which stage to begin is provided at the end of this document – this is intended to provide advice, and is neither comprehensive nor binding, and the meeting may decide that a different response is appropriate.

# Informal discussion

In cases of minor offences or faults in working standard the individual concerned will be invited to discuss the situation informally. This would not be regarded as disciplinary action and would be seen as a process of constructive criticism. A note should be taken to show that the discussion has taken place in order to assist assessment of whether the case should be referred to the next stage if the minor offences or faults continue.

# Verbal warning

If there appears to be a persistent problem then a formal meeting will be held to consider whether a Verbal Warning should be given.

If at that meeting it is considered that action is reasonable and justified then a formal Verbal Warning will be issued. A Verbal Warning will normally take the form of a reprimand specifying the standard of behaviour expected in the future, and the time period in which it should be achieved, along with a date on or near which the situation will be reviewed.

A record of the Verbal Warning should be kept for a period specified at the meeting (usually nine months), but should normally be disregarded for disciplinary purposes after this period has expired, unless the case is ongoing.

# Written warning

If there is no improvement within the specified time, or the case is serious enough to warrant the disciplinary process beginning at this stage then a formal meeting will be held to consider whether a Written Warning should be given.

If at that meeting it is considered that action is reasonable and justified then a formal Written Warning will be issued.

A Written Warning will normally take the form of a letter, stating the reasons for the warning, the action which must be taken to put things right, (including the type of assistance or re-training the coop may be able to offer), the time in which these matters must be put right and informing the individual of their right to appeal.

A record of the Written Warning should be kept for a period specified at the meeting (usually nine months), but should normally be disregarded for disciplinary purposes after this period has expired, unless the case is ongoing.

# Final written warning

If there is no improvement within the specified time, or the case is serious enough to warrant the disciplinary process beginning at this stage then a formal meeting will be held to consider whether a Final Written Warning should be given.

If at that meeting it is considered that action is reasonable and justified then a Final Written Warning will be issued.

A Final Written Warning will normally take the form of a letter, stating the reasons for the warning, the action which must be taken to put things right, (including the type of assistance or retraining the co-op may be able to offer), the time in which these matters must be put right and informing the individual of their right to appeal. The letter shall also inform the individual that the failure to improve, or persistence in a course of action, will lead to dismissal.

A record of the Final Written Warning should be kept for a period specified at the meeting (usually twenty four months), but should normally be disregarded for disciplinary purposes after this period has expired, unless the case is ongoing.

# Dismissal

If the individual does not meet the required standard set out in the Final Written Warning, or the case is serious enough to warrant the disciplinary process beginning at this stage then a formal meeting will be held to consider whether the individual should be dismissed.

If at that meeting it is considered that action is reasonable and justified then the individual may be dismissed and cease to be a member of the co-op. If the formal meeting does not constitute quoracy (as defined for General Meetings by the coop’s Articles of Association) then the decision to dismiss the member must be ratified by a General Meeting before dismissal can take effect. Reasons for dismissal will be given in writing.

# Examples of misconduct and suggested stages to begin proceedings (this list is a guide only and is non-exhaustive)

Example of misconduct Suggested stage to begin proceedings
Unsatisfactory work performance Verbal Warning
Poor timekeeping for client meetings Verbal Warning
Unexplained occasional absence Verbal Warning
Repeated or serious failure to follow instructions Verbal Warning
Unwillingness to co-operate Verbal Warning
Not abiding by the ethical and equality policies Verbal Warning
Breach of Constitution Verbal Warning
Breach of the Principles and Values of the Cooperative Movement Verbal Warning
Unwillingness to work by consensus/take part in the running and decision-making of the co-op Written Warning
Serious incapability at work brought on by alcohol or drugs not taken for medical purposes Final Written Warning
Rudeness to someone to whom the co-op is providing services Final Written Warning
Theft or fraud Dismissal
Physical violence, bullying, harassment or victimisation Dismissal
Deliberate and serious damage to co-op or client property Dismissal
Serious misuse of the co-op's property or name Dismissal
Unlawful discrimination or harassment Dismissal
Bringing the co-op into serious disrepute Dismissal
Causing loss, damage or injury through serious negligence Dismissal
A serious breach of health and safety rules Dismissal
A serious breach of confidence Dismissal