Despite every effort, even the best run business may encounter problems of misconduct from time to time.

Misconduct can range from a minor incidence of unsatisfactory behaviour to an act of violence, theft or malicious damage.  However, the one thing they all have in common is that if handled incorrectly they could not only damage your reputation but leave facing the prospect expensive unfair dismissal claims and employment tribunals.

It is often easier to deal with a minor incidence of misconduct informally by simply explaining to the employee why their behaviour has been deemed unsatisfactory and seeking agreement/agree steps to ensure it does not continue or recur.  However, if this does not have the desired result, or closer investigation reveals that the problem is bigger than initially thought, then it might be necessary to invoke a more formal approach. Most companies operate a 3-stage process: (1) written warning, (2) final written warning, (3) dismissal.

Avoidance is better than cure!  The key to protecting your business is to have in place a clear and fair disciplinary procedure that defines what behaviours you consider to be acts of misconduct relevant to the type of business you undertake and that this is communicated to every member of staff at the outset of employment.  The procedure should cover a range of circumstances, the different types of work performed by your employees, health and safety issues, risks to your business, timekeeping, use and care of company equipment, bullying/harassment, claiming expenses and use of email and internet.

Finally, whatever approach you take, always keep full and detailed records.  This is just as important for minor breaches as it is for acts of gross misconduct and will ensure that if the behaviour occurs or escalates you will find it easier to defend any subsequent claims of unfair dismissal and protect the reputation of your company.