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Grievance procedures vs Disciplinary procedures - what's the difference?

by , 20 August 2015
Sometimes the grievance of one employee can lead to the discipline of another. Now, while these two procedures can overlap, there are differences between them. So in the instance that a grievance is laid and you feel you need to take disciplinary action, put the grievance procedure on hold and make way for the disciplinary procedure. Here are five key differences between grievance procedures and disciplinary procedures...

1. Who starts it?

For grievances, your employee will lodge the complaint. But for disciplinary procedures, you will initiate the disciplinary action. 

2. The number of stages: 
A grievance procedure can have many stages or levels. In larger companies, there can be several levels – moving from lower management up to higher levels of management if a grievance is no't resolved.
For disciplinary procedures, there are two stages with regard to the specific incident. These two stages are the 'hearing' and the 'appeal' . 
Also, don't forget the various stages involved in 'corrective action' you can use in a disciplinary procedure – such as written or verbal warnings. 

3. What are the decisions based on? 

In a grievance procedure, the decisions are based around the grievance-lodging employee's wishes and expectations.


Everything you need to know about substantively and procedurally fair disciplinary hearings
So… Your employee's guilty of misconduct. Let's say he took a company laptop home, without asking permission. It's a simple open and closed case of theft, isn't it?
Not so fast! You can't just say 'that's it, you're out of here' and think that's the end of that. No, you still have to hold a disciplinary hearing. You still have to give him a chance to defend his case, and explain why he did that.
You also have to prove that he did this. You have to spell it out for him and notify him you're going to discipline him. And you have to give him time to prepare his case.
And then there's even more to it… You have to have a disciplinary hearing so you can prove your case, and give him a chance to defend his… And this is where most employers fail.
For disciplinary procedures, the decision made is based on what you find appropriate – given the facts.

4. When do they occur? 

Unless a grievance is lodged, a grievance procedure will not take place. But for disciplinary procedures, you don't have to wait for an employee to lodge a grievance. As soon as you are aware of misconduct, you can initiate disciplinary action. 

5. What are their purposes? 

The purpose of a grievance procedure is to resolve an employee's grievance and the purpose of a disciplinary procedure is to either correct an employee's behaviour or punish her for it (depending on the seriousness of the offence).
So there you have it! There are five key differences between grievance procedures and disciplinary procedures. 

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