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FOOD FOR THOUGHT
Restaurant Association NZ
Marisa Bidois - Chief Executive
AN INFORMAL RESPONSE IS USUALLY THE
FIRST STEP OF THE DISCIPLINARY PROCESS
WE’VE NOTED, THROUGH recent feedback from members, that
employers often feel trapped into inaction when a minor employment
incident occurs in the workplace. The feeling is that if it is not
serious enough to conduct a formal disciplinary process with the
employee, then the employer has limited options to address the
incident in other ways.
However, when an employer is presented with a minor incident
of misconduct or unsatisfactory performance, oftentimes the most
appropriate course of action initially is an informal discussion with
the employee, and employers shouldn’t shy away from this. Good
communication between employers and employees helps to build good
employment relationships and prevent more serious issues arising.
Informal meetings are also a good opportunity to clarify your
expectations and reiterate company policy. House rules may also
need to be re-addressed with the employee as sometimes the
problem may be occurring because of a lack of understanding of the
rules or correct company procedure.
WHAT DOES ‘INFORMAL ACTION’ INVOLVE?
In practice you are not going to initiate a formal disciplinary process
for every minor episode of misconduct and if you really want the
unwanted behaviour to cease then you still need to address it. When
you undertake informal action you are making a decision not to invoke
your business’ formal disciplinary procedure (and the outcomes that
would come as a result of the formal process).
HERE ARE SOME TIPS ON GETTING THE BEST
OUTCOME FROM THOSE INFORMAL DISCUSSIONS.
Even if you are conducting an informal meeting, choose somewhere
private to have the discussion and ensure it is a two way conversation.
Like any formal process, you’ll still want to get your employee’s
feedback to any concerns or problems that have occurred.
Explain to the employee what the problem is and try to establish
if there is an underlying reason for the misconduct. Set out your
expectations and, importantly, explain that if there is not an
improvement you may need to take more formal action in the future.
If the problem is one of substandard work performance it may be
necessary to discuss additional training or assistance, or implement a
performance improvement plan, (although this would mean elevating
the situation to a more formal process).
Although informal, keep notes of your discussions. A diary note
may suffice, but if you do want to confirm these discussions in writing
to the employee make it clear that the discussions are not part of any
formal disciplinary process.
Ensure that the discussion does not start to take a more formal
turn. A formal meeting can’t evolve half way through an informal
meeting, so if it becomes clear that the matter may be more serious
than first thought close the meeting and confirm that you will be
instigating a more formal process to investigate the situation.
THINGS GETTING SERIOUS?
It is worth noting that while a record of dealing with the problem
through informal action is useful, it isn’t building a case for possible
dismissal of the employee. If the problems don’t stop, at some point
those series of minor incidences, because of their repetition, will
have snowballed into something more serious and you will need to
elevate proceedings to a more formal structure.
If you are looking at advancing the process to something more
formal you’ll need to ensure you follow a certain course of action.
This will involve inviting the employee (and their support person or
representative) to a formal meeting and meeting with them to hear their
response to the allegation(s). You’ll then need to consider this feedback
and potentially conduct further investigation to help you to come to a
preliminary decision which you will also invite the employee’s feedback
on before making any final decision on the outcome of the process.
Often we hear of employee misconduct which an employer has
been trying to manage informally over a period of some time, until
one final incident results in them desperately looking for ways
to dismiss the employee. Our best advice is not to let recurring
incidences of misconduct occur without action, or without formal
action. It is likely you’ll eventually get frustrated by the situation and
start searching for a quick fix solution. However, in employment
relations any shortcuts can prove costly for an employer.
If you have questions we recommend that you contact the
Restaurant Association helpline on 0800 737 827 to seek guidance
and discuss the formal disciplinary process.
Hospitality BUSINESS | March 2017 | 31
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