Do’s and Dont’s of Disciplinary Enquiries!

Chairing a disciplinary enquiry is an important responsibility. It is a skill which can be developed and perfected with experience and training. One of the complexities of running a disciplinary enquiry is the element of the unknown, which always exists.

As the chairperson, you never really know what to expect, the details of the alleged incident, or the reactions of the parties concerned.

Therefore, as much as can be controlled, should be. Control should be exercised in a professional and intelligent manner. It is with this in mind, that we present you with a list of “do’s and don’ts” when running a disciplinary process, to assist you in running a professional and fair enquiry.


  • Ensure that the principles of fairness are upheld throughout the disciplinary procedure
  • Know the disciplinary procedure format
  • Be familiar with employee’s rights in a disciplinary enquiry
  • Be prepared to manage any form of employee representation
  • Have the expectation of high emotions or aggression, and feel confident to manage the situation
  • Ensure that the employee is informed of the date and time of the disciplinary enquiry at least 48 hours before hand
  • Know what to do if an employee refuses to attend a disciplinary enquiry
  • Know what to do if an employee refuses to participate in a disciplinary enquiry that is held in a language other than his or her chosen one
  • Be familiar with the process if an employee raises a grievance within the disciplinary process
  • Take notes or have an impartial third party taking minutes of the process
  • Begin the enquiry by outlining the process that will be followed
  • Set out the alleged allegations against the employee
  • Allow the employee a fair opportunity to state his or her case or explain their conduct
  • Should new information arise which requires investigation, adjourn the enquiry to facilitate that investigation
  • Objectively weigh up the evidence and determine the most appropriate sanction
  • Consider the employee’s circumstances, including years of service and previous records
  • Inform the employee of his or her right to appeal the sanction given


  • Assume that if the employee is wrong that you are in a stronger position
  • Conduct half an investigation because you know this is an ‘open and shut case’
  • Make any allegations that are unsubstantiated
  • Accept just any hearsay evidence, this can render a dismissal unfair
  • Succumb to external pressure
  • Minimise the value of witnesses
  • Make an assumption that if you can argue well that you will win at arbitration
  • Forget to have a written record of the proceedings
  • Not have time to refresh yourself on the disciplinary codes and practices of your company
  • Believe that all evidence is admissible
  • Be afraid to stop the proceedings if something unexpected happens and you need to investigate it
  • Be affected by the emotions of either party
  • Make a decision before hearing out both parties fairly
  • Conclude the disciplinary enquiry without ensuring that the process has been both procedurally and substantively fair
  • Give inappropriate sanction due to pressure or ignorance
  • Became impatient or lazy about following procedures

To learn more about preparation, conducting and competently running disciplinary enquiries, attend our upcoming Effective Workplace Discipline workshop, being held on Tuesday, 4 October 2016, or email us to discuss in-house training options.  Email Gordon for more details: