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Employee Discipline Policy: Definition, Considerations & Examples

Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Joseph Madison

Joseph received his Doctorate from UMUC in Management. He retired from the Army after 23 years of service, working in intelligence, behavioral health, and entertainment.

To motivate employees to behave appropriately at work, organizations can implement employee discipline policies. Explore the definition of such policies to understand what considerations thy should address, and see examples of possible elements to include. Updated: 01/12/2022

What's an Employee Discipline Policy?

It's Tuesday and Amy has come in late to work again. She sits down at her desk and promptly falls asleep. Amy's manager, Tom, is confused by this behavior. When she starts snoring he realizes he has to do something, but what are his options? This is where an employee discipline policy comes into play. An employee discipline policy is a document that lays out the company's objectives and requirements for its employees. It can come in many different varieties depending on the needs of the company itself. Ultimately, this document will have a list of behaviors and actionable offenses and how they will be dealt with. This policy is then provided to every employee. Once an employee reads and signs the policy, which confirms that they agree, it holds them responsible for their role. Therefore, what is included in the policy should be considered carefully.

The discipline style we will be covering in this lesson is progressive discipline. Progressive discipline is the process of addressing employee behaviors in a graduated fashion. For example, Mary comes in late to work three days in a row. The first day she is late she is given a verbal warning, the second day she is given a written warning, and the third day she is given a final written warning. Each disciplinary action gets progressively more serious upon repeated offenses.

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Discipline Policy Inclusions

Each company is unique and therefore each employee discipline policy is unique as well. However, when creating a policy, consider the following common inclusions:

  • Employee Conduct Requirements - This section will advise employees on what offenses can or will be addressed if it is an important part of the employee discipline procedure. For example, if lateness is not going to be tolerated, it should be stated in the policy. If it is not stated, then an employee could come in late and quote the employee discipline policy as proof that they did not have to come into work on time.

  • Disciplinary Actions - This section should include the list of actions that will occur if an employee does not follow the conduct requirements (for example, verbal warnings, written warnings, no pay, suspension, and termination).

  • Guidelines for Termination - Within this section it should be explained under which circumstances an employee can be terminated and the process of termination. If employment is at-will, or can be terminated without cause, then this should also be discussed here.

  • Performance Appraisals - Within the document, performance appraisals should be outlined. This is important because disciplinary action may stem from bad appraisals.

Lastly, there must be a section for the employee to sign and date, showing that they have read and agreed to the document. This will be helpful should any legal issues arise.

Considerations in Employee Discipline

Discipline policies are not black and white. There are considerations, or unique situations, in which employees cannot be disciplined. These should be documented and included in the policy for both employee and management clarity. The following are some examples of considerations:

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