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The five key differences between grievance procedures and disciplinary procedures

by , 08 June 2016
The five key differences between grievance procedures and disciplinary proceduresMany employers make the mistake of seeing their grievance and disciplinary procedures as the same thing, especially when it's a grievance from one of your employees that leads to disciplinary action being taken against another employee.

Now, while there is a link between the two in a situation like this, they are not the same.

To help you understand this more, here are the five key differences between grievance procedures and disciplinary procedures...

Keep reading to find out what they are...


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.
But not you! Here's why…

The five key differences between grievance procedures and disciplinary procedures…

DIFFERENCE#1: Who starts it

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

DIFFERENCE#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 not resolved.

For disciplinary procedures, however, there are two stages with regard to the specific incident, namely the 'hearing' and the 'appeal' stages. Also, don't forget the various stages involved in 'corrective action' you can use in a disciplinary procedure – such as written or verbal warnings.

DIFFERENCE#3 What the decisions are based on

In a grievance procedure, the decisions are based around a grievant's wishes and expectations. But for disciplinary procedures, the decision made is based on what you find appropriate – given the facts.

DIFFERENCE#4: When 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 procedure. As soon as you are aware of misconduct, you can initiate disciplinary action.

DIFFERENCE#5: 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 them for it (depending on the seriousness of the offence).
So what should you do then in a situation like the one mentioned above?

Remember, the two procedures are different. So if an employee lodges a grievance, you should place the grievance procedure on hold, and pursue necessary disciplinary measures, through your disciplinary procedure.

But if the grievant is happy with the disciplinary action being taken, then the grievance process will have been solved.

CAUTION: The one similarity between these two procedures is that you must first investigate and establish the facts. In other words, you can't just rely on rumours and unsubstantiated claims.

Look into them thoroughly before taking any action.

*To learn more, page over to Chapter G 01 in your Labour Law for Managers handbook, or click here to order your copy today.

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