A progressive discipline policy is a structured approach to addressing employee misconduct or performance issues while providing opportunities for improvement. Could your company benefit from including one in your employee handbook?

What is a Progressive Discipline Policy?

It’s a formal framework that outlines the steps and procedures for addressing employee misconduct or performance deficiencies in a systematic manner. Rather than resorting to immediate termination, progressive discipline aims to correct behavior through a series of escalating consequences, such as verbal warnings, written warnings, probationary periods, and ultimately, termination, if necessary.

This approach allows employees to understand the expectations for behavior and performance, receive feedback on areas needing improvement, and have opportunities to rectify their actions before facing severe consequences.

Does My Company Need One?

Implementing a policy is beneficial for every company, regardless your size or industry, for several compelling reasons.

It ensures fairness and consistency in applying disciplinary actions throughout the organization. This can help create a culture of fairness, and more importantly, helps mitigate the risk of discrimination or claims of unfair treatment. For instance, in the United States, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) expects employers to treat all employees consistently to avoid potential discrimination claims.

Progressive discipline policies provide employees with valuable feedback on areas needing improvement and offer opportunities for professional growth. This helps your team help with continuous improvement and employee development, which ultimately benefits your entire organization.

From a legal perspective, having a policy and documenting each step of the disciplinary process protects the company against potential legal claims or disputes related to employee terminations. For example, in wrongful termination cases, courts may examine whether the company followed its stated disciplinary procedures.

Finally, providing employees with opportunities to improve their performance or behavior before facing termination can help retain valuable talent and maintain your employees’ morale.

What Should be Included in a Progressive Discipline Policy?

An effective policy should include the following key components to ensure it is fair, consistent, and legally defensible:

  • Purpose and scope: State the purpose of the policy and specify the types of behavior or performance issues that may warrant progressive discipline.
  • Progressive steps: Outline the progressive steps or stages of discipline. This usually includes steps such as verbal warnings, written warnings, probationary periods, and termination, along with the criteria for advancing to each stage.
  • Documentation: Emphasize the importance of documenting all instances of employee misconduct or performance deficiencies, including dates, times, witnesses, and actions taken.
  • Employee rights: Clearly communicate employees’ rights throughout the disciplinary process, including the right to be informed of the allegations against them, the opportunity to respond, and the right to appeal disciplinary decisions.
  • Supervisor training: Provide training to supervisors and managers on how to effectively implement the progressive discipline policy, including how to conduct disciplinary meetings, deliver feedback, and document disciplinary actions.
  • Confidentiality: Ensure that all disciplinary matters are handled confidentially and that information is shared only on a need-to-know basis to protect employee privacy and confidentiality.
  • Appeals process: Establish a process for employees to appeal disciplinary decisions, including who they should contact and the timeline for submitting appeals.

Create Your Own Progressive Discipline Policy with SixFifty

A well-written policy is a valuable tool for addressing employee misconduct or performance issues. Whatever your organization’s size and structure, having a progressive discipline policy is key in maintaining employee performance standards, fostering a positive work environment, and mitigating legal risks.

Create your own Progressive Discipline Policy with SixFifty today to ensure your company remains fair and legally compliant.