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Keeping records of disciplinary and grievance procedures

Knowledge is power - so mused the English philosopher Sir Francis Bacon four centuries ago. It's certainly true in the workplace that knowledge built on good information allows managers to make decisions on fact, to plan ahead, and to identify and remedy organisational problems and weaknesses. But these aren't the only reasons to maintain accurate records.

Written records are also crucial in disciplinary and grievance matters. The Acas Discipline and grievance - Acas Code of Practice advises employers to keep a written record of any disciplinary or grievance case that they deal with. There should be records of the various stages of the procedure, including of: the complaint; the employee's defence; findings made; actions taken and reasons for them; whether there was an appeal and its outcome; any grievances raised during the procedure; any subsequent developments; notes of any formal meetings.

Given that disciplinary action, especially if it leads to a dismissal, can lead to a tribunal situation, it's vital that employers can produce a proper paper trail that establishes the validity of their disciplinary procedures. Part of this is being able to demonstrate that an employee has been treated fairly and in a way that's consistent with the treatment of other employees in comparable situations.

Copies of meeting records should be given to the employee including copies of any formal minutes that may have been taken. In some circumstances, such as to protect a witness, the employer might be justified in withholding some information.

Employers must keep personnel records in accordance with the rules set out in the Data Protection Act 1998. Such records are confidential, but individuals concerned have the right to request and have access to certain personal data. More information on this is available in Discipline and grievances at work: The Acas guide.

Keeping records in a systematic and organised way, and documenting matters fully - rather than just noting what disciplinary action was taken - is often more difficult for small firms that may not have in-house HR support. That's why Acas offers Help for small firms to get it right, and can point them in the right direction with effective record keeping. Acas also gives general advice about record keeping in the Advisory booklet - Personnel data and record keeping.

If you're looking for practical training on issues associated with Discipline and grievance, please visit the Acas Training Courses, Workshops and Projects area for more information.

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