How do you deal with Discipline in the Workplace?

How do you discipline two members of staff, who are at different levels within the business, for the same alleged offence? Croner is here to help you…

When employers are considering appropriate disciplinary sanctions to impose on their employees, they should always act reasonably and consider a number of issues. However, what happens when two employees commit the same act of alleged misconduct – is an employer obliged to impose exactly the same disciplinary sanction for both of them?  This was the recent dilemma for Melvin.


Melvin managed a nursery, it had come to light recently that one of his Room Leader’s and a childcare practitioner had taken a group of children out on a trip to the park. In complete violation of the procedures, both members of staff had gone out without the Nursery’s first aid kit and the Nursery’s mobile phone.

Melvin decided that both employees should face a disciplinary for this conduct. He met with each employee separately and it was ascertained that both knew of the procedures and what equipment was expected to be taken on a trip, however neither had checked with the other to see if they had it and seemingly they both seemed to have forgotten to bring this equipment along.

Melvin considered that the childcare practitioner should receive a written warning for her conduct, but wanted to give the Room Leader a harsher sanction, given her superiority and the fact that she should be setting an example for the standards expected and the adherence to Nursery policy. However, Melvin did not want any allegation of unfairness by giving the two employees different disciplinary sanctions, therefore he called the Croner Employment Advisory Service for advice.

Legal obligation?

Melvin was advised that there is no express legal obligation on an employer to impose the same disciplinary sanction where two employees breach the same rule. Each individual case should be decided on its own merits, taking into account issues such as the employee’s disciplinary record, their experience and seniority and any mitigating circumstances.  Also areas, such as whether the organisation’s rules point to a likely sanction and what action has been taken for the same breach of rules in previous cases.  The employer should consider whether they are acting consistently and only impose different sanctions on employees’ when reasonable to do so.

Melvin informed the Employment Advisory Service that both these employees had clean disciplinary records and he had not had to discipline any other employees for the same breach. The main reason why Melvin wanted to impose a more serious sanction on the Room Leader was because of her seniority and responsibility she had for the children and her subordinate workers.  Melvin was advised that in these circumstances it would be likely to be seen as reasonable to impose different disciplinary sanctions.

Seek advice before action

Although in Melvin’s case there was a clear reason why he felt justified in imposing different sanctions, employers would be well advised to look at all the circumstances when deciding on any disciplinary sanction for employees’, as they can be a huge variety of circumstances which could alter the reasonableness of that decision.

The Croner-i Early Years Toolkit for dot2dot provides further information and guidance on an employer’s rights to refuse a holiday request in addition to a model policy which is available to download. All dot2dot customers can access this by visiting entering your registered email and password.

Don’t forget dot 2 dot members also have access to Croner’s team of employment law experts through their Helpline to assist you with this subject or any other HR issue. Simply call them for free on 0844 561 8111.

If you are not currently a dot2dot customer and are interested in a free trial of the Croner-I Early Years Toolkit then please do not hesitate to contact the dot2dot team on 01204 570 390.

Stanmore Ins Staff

Jackie Hyde