Dealing with disciplinary action at work

This advice applies to Wales. See advice for See advice for England, See advice for Northern Ireland, See advice for Scotland

If your employer has concerns or a complaint about your work, they might decide to take disciplinary action against you.

There are a number of reasons why your employer might decide to take disciplinary action against you. These include your:

  • behaviour at work

  • absence from work

  • standard of work

Before your employer starts disciplinary action against you, they should investigate what happened. This might involve asking you to come to a meeting.

Your employer should write to you if they’re starting disciplinary action - if they haven’t, they might just be investigating what happened.

Sorting out the problem informally

The first time you might be aware of a problem with your employer is when they ask to talk to you about a concern they have. 

It's often best to keep this conversation informal at first because it might be the result of a misunderstanding. You might be able to provide evidence that will help clear things up - for example a doctor's note. 

Make sure you keep a note of the conversation and what was agreed.

It might not be possible for your employer to sort out their concerns informally and they might start formal disciplinary procedures. In some cases, you could be dismissed.

If your employer decides to take disciplinary action against you

Your employer should follow a written process, which explains the standards of fairness they'll follow in the disciplinary action. 

They might use the Acas Code of Practice, or they might have their own procedure, which should be similar.

It's a good idea to keep a note of exactly what happens and when.

Steps your employer should take

Your employer’s first step should be to investigate what happened. You don't have the right to bring someone with you to a meeting if your employer is just investigating what happened.

If your employer wants to take disciplinary action after they complete their investigation, they should write to you.

When they write, they should:

  • explain what they think you've done wrong - there should be enough detail for you to be able to prepare your response  

  • tell you the next step will be a meeting to discuss the problem - they should also let you know when and where it will take place

  • let  you know you have the right to have someone at the meeting with you - this could be a colleague from work or a trade union representative

Your employer shouldn’t take any disciplinary action before the meeting. 

Your employer should give you the opportunity to set out your case at the meeting. 

After the meeting, your employer should tell you what they've decided - they  should do this in writing.

You can read about how to prepare for a disciplinary meeting.

If you don't agree with your employer’s decision 

Your employer should give you the opportunity to appeal against their decision.

You don't have to appeal, but it's worth it if you might later decide to go to an employment tribunal. If you win your case, the tribunal could reduce your compensation if you didn't appeal to your employer first.

If you're still not happy with your employer’s decision, you might want to make a claim to an employment tribunal.

If your employer doesn’t follow the steps

You might decide to make a claim to an employment tribunal. If you win your case, the amount of compensation your employer has to pay you could be more than it would have been if they’d followed the ACAS code of practice.

If they dismiss you, you might be able to challenge your dismissal because they didn’t follow the Acas code of practice.

Help us improve our website

Take 3 minutes to tell us if you found what you needed on our website. Your feedback will help us give millions of people the information they need.

Page last reviewed on 22 February 2021