By Melissa Llarena

Screening interviews with human resources professionals are a crucial step to getting the job. A good or bad interview with HR will determine how far you go in the interviewing process, so it’s best to know what to expect and go in prepared.

As a career coach, I have worked with job candidates on how to answer the most common questions asked by HR. My mock interviews place clients in situations similar to ones they will actually face and prepare them to ace their interviews and land the job.

Let’s take a look at the five most common questions asked by HR during screening interviews and how you should approach them.

1. Why are you interested in this position?

HR professionals love this question so use it as your chance to reiterate your strengths and highlight your applicable skill set and passion for the company and the role. Speak to how your past experiences match the qualifications for the job using keywords from the job description to make the connection stronger. By clearly linking your skills to the position, you are helping the HR manager envision you in the role.

Sample Answer: Having worked within the financial services sector for five years, I have gained an appreciation for the power of client-facing roles in terms of my professional development and organizational impact. As a relationship manager in your firm, I envision bringing my ability to resourcefully optimize any given client’s portfolio as the best way I can help your company’s five-year strategic goal of retaining its client base at a 50% rate. I have done this in the past in X capacity while working for my previous employer and am confident that I can help you accelerate your current goals while growing my career.

2. Tell me about yourself.

As an age-old prompt that will likely never go away, it’s important to know how to provide a compelling answer for an HR manager. Instead of the typical chronological progression of your background, I recommend doing a SWOT analysis within the context of a professional interview. Analyze the sector, the company, and the job function using a SWOT and look for opportunities to market yourself. I go into this in more detail in my blog post on how to tell your professional story in a way that will entice an interviewer to hire you.

Sample Answer: I have been a sales manager for X years, with experiences that include being able to lead a sales force toward the accomplishment of aggressive goals. In light of your organization’s core strength in hiring the brightest salespeople, I would know exactly how to coach them to sell both new and legacy products in new markets quickly. While at Company X, I created the gold standard incentive program that resulted in helping us sell-in potential charge volume that exceeded our goals by 20% in both travel expenses and daily expenses. Prior to that, I worked at X where I completed X, etc. Side note: figure out the assets of the hiring firm or its needs and tailor your response accordingly.

3. Why are you leaving your current job?

HR managers ask this question to determine if there are any red flags related to your departure. Are you leaving on good terms or bad? Are you looking to escape from your current job or grow within a new one? These are a few of the questions running through the interviewer’s mind. Take this opportunity to speak positively of your current employer but communicate that you’re looking at this new position as the next step in your career. By framing your answer positively, you’re making the interviewer focus on your potential contributions rather than any red flags.

Sample Answer: My business unit started with 50 full-time employees and today it has 10. While this reduction in personnel enabled me to showcase my ability to produce results with limited resources in an organization where management has turned over, I am interested in transitioning to an organization like yours where there is growth potential. For example, in my current role I managed to acquire 100K clients with only one other sales manager and a dwindling budget. In your company, I would be managing a team of 20 sales managers, where I stand to make a significant impact not only for your firm but on the firm’s market share.

4. What do you know about the company?

This is a test and one you should be able to pass easily. Doing research on a company prior to an interview is a necessity. You need to know the history and makeup of the company, who the key players are, recent accomplishments and mentions in the press, and any other relevant information. Communicate the positive information you learned about the company, from awards to new product launches, to demonstrate your knowledge.

Sample Answer: Your firm competes with firm A, firm B, and firm C in the U.S. My understanding is that you are better positioned in this area vs. firms A, B, or C. Meanwhile, firms B and C bring these strengths to the table.  Given my skill set, I know that I can help you optimize your strength in this and offset the strengths that firms B and C plan to invest more heavily in during 2014.  *Side note: the point is to be specific in how you’d use this information to drive results.

5. What questions do you have for me?

ALWAYS have questions for the interviewer. The strongest candidates show their enthusiasm and position themselves as potentially valuable team members by asking smart, strategic questions that benefit both the interviewer and the interviewee. If you’re stumped, here are five questions to ask HR that will take you to the next phase of the interviewing process.

“To learn more about how to navigate job interviews or if you have an upcoming interview, set up a 15-minute consultation.  I have helped professionals go from second choice to first.”

Melissa Llarena is a firsthand career transition expert (having gone through 16 business unit changes in 10 years) and president of Career Outcomes Matter.

Ahead of World Youth Skills Day (15th July) we asked HR professionals what type of opportunities their organisations offered young people. It was really positive to see the high level of engagement, particularly with the proportion of HR professionals offering structured routes for young people to develop their skills and experience; the majority of HR professionals who responded to the poll offered work experience placements (81%) and apprenticeship places (67%) for young people. Yet, a smaller proportion offered workplace visits (44%) and career talks (51%), which are a really valuable route for young people to learn about the world of work, the wide variety of roles available with organisations, and the career paths available.

This, however, broadly fits with the national picture. Recent evidence from the Employer Perspective Survey 2016, which captures the views of over 18,000 employers across the UK, found that employers were much more likely to offer work placements (38%) than ‘work inspiration’ (10%) activities such as mentoring, holding site visits and visiting educational institutions to talk with students about careers.

So how can HR professionals support young people gain the skills and experiences they need to succeed in the workplace?

There are many ways that HR professionals can engage and support young people build their skills and make the important transition from education to work. We have developed a range of resources to support HR professionals through our Learning to Work programme some top tips include:

• Recognise and promote the business case for supporting young people during the transition from education to work.

• Reach out to local schools and colleges, this can help bridge the gap between education and business and allow you to reach out to new talent pools.

• Use your skills to help young people prepare for the recruitment process by developing their employability skills such as CV writing, interview technique and job search.

Become a Steps Ahead Mentor to provide mentoring sessions for a young jobseeker jobseekers to help them improve their employability skills, boost their confidence and find work.

• Provide high quality work experience and volunteering opportunities that will give young people the insight and skills they need to work in your industry.

• Look for opportunities to make recruitment practices within your organisation as youth friendly as possible.

You can also get involved by becoming an Enterprise Adviser. Enterprise Advisers are senior business volunteers who are matched with a school or college to provide local labour market insight and advice on how to connect to other local employers. CIPD members interested in volunteering can register their interest at

Today the Equality and Human Rights Commission published a new strategy for tackling gender, ethnicity and disability pay gaps. Their recommendations on the changes needed to address pay gaps in Britain are timely for many businesses who are preparing to report on their gender pay gaps. The breadth of their new strategy, Fair opportunities for all, will help employers think more holistically about inclusion and various CIPD research supports their assertion that a greater focus on flexible working opportunities across the labour market would enable individuals who are disadvantaged in the labour market, for whatever reason, to access and progress in work.

The right to request flexible working is available to all UK workers (who have worked for the same employer for at least 26 weeks), but is yet to be recognised as such in practice due to a complex interaction of societal and organisational factors. Over the past 15 years, flexible working provision has increased, but the range of flexible working arrangements offered remains narrow, largely restricted to part-time working and flexi-time, and actual uptake has changed little.

To make flexible working the norm rather than the exception, it’s crucial that organisations challenge assumptions about who it is for and why to encourage greater uptake. HR professionals have a critical role in questioning workplace cultures and busting the myths around what flexible working means and how it’s possible across a wide range of roles, to encourage businesses to act differently. HR also needs to make it clear that flexibility is not just about the hours people work, but is about fundamental job design. We know that a lack of flexibility at all levels of seniority is a barrier to people accessing work, returning, and progressing out of low-paid roles. Challenging traditionally rigid job design means employers can create ‘people-shaped jobs’ which will enable people in a wide range of circumstances both ‘get in’ and ‘get on’ in work, and so boost long-term productivity.

The EHRC’s research also highlights the complexity of tackling pay gaps across gender, race and disability. Government and employers need to understand the grass roots issues which will differ both within and between groups, and be aware of the intricacies of looking at overlapping identities, for example being a female and from an ethnic minority group. Our research points to the need for better workforce data to inform evidence-based solutions in a particular business sector and context. We therefore urge employers to get under the headlines of the pay gaps to make sustainable change happen, challenge any misconceptions that the gaps are entirely out of employers’ control and shun quick fixes that will only paper over the cracks.

“Have I got your attention?  I hope so because what I am about to talk about will affect every Employer from 25th May 2018″, says Chris Wilkinson from Expert HR Solutions.

Quite simply the Data Protection Act (DPA) will be replaced by the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) as it will apply to organisation’s operating within the EU AND to those outside of the EU that offer goods and services to individuals within the EU.  As with the DPA the GDPA will have Controllers who say how and why personal data is processed, and Processors who act on the controller’s behalf.

While the principles are similar to those in the DPA, there are some additional requirements that UK companies need to be aware of.  The most significant is accountability.  The GDPR requires you to demonstrate compliance by design.  This means ensuring you have adequate systems, contractual provisions, documented decisions about processing, and training in place.

As with the DPA, the GDPR will apply to ‘personal data’ held about employees, however, the GDPR’s definition is broader.  Any data that can be used to identify an individual is considered to be personal data.  It can include things such as genetic, mental, cultural, economic or social information, and IP addresses.

Sensitive personal data known as ‘special categories of personal data’ is broadly similar to the DPA but there are some minor changes that will need to be addressed.  It will include genetic data and biometric data where processed to uniquely identify an individual.

The issue of ‘consent’, where it validates the use of personal data, is also a significant development.  Organisations need to ensure they are explicit when seeking consent and detail how they will use the information.  Given that you are required to have a Contract of Employment for all Employees of a Contract for Services for sub-contractors and both of these documents contain sensitive personal data it would be wise to include a clause making it clear that the organisation will hold this data for the purposes of employing or sub-contracting the individual.

Here’s our list of actions to consider:

So why is all this so important?  Well, the penalties that can be imposed will increase substantially.  Depending on the nature of the breach, fines can be around £15,000 or 4 per cent of the total annual global turnover, based on the preceding financial year, whichever is the greater.

So if you are concerned about the implications of the GDPR from an Employment perspective why not give us a call on 01202 611033 and we will be happy to help.

The good news is that according to a large-scale study by the Mental Health Charity Mind Employers are getting better at managing mental ill-health says Chris Wilkinson from Expert HR Solutions.  The not so good news, he continues is that the study shows that 26% of Employees who describe their mental health as poor say that work is the main cause.  When you consider that around 12% of employees suffer from poor mental health the problem is widespread and likely to be present in most workplaces.

The research also laid bare the discrepancy between Employees and Line Managers with 54% of the former feeling supported by their line manager, but 73% of managers said they would feel confident supporting an employee experiencing a mental health problem.  Part of this discrepancy may be explained by the fact that only 26% of employees said they would be likely to seek support if they were experiencing a mental health issue.

Generally the research showed a greater awareness by management of external and internal support mechanisms with 72% of employees suffering from mental health issues saying they had been made aware of support tools such as employee assistance programmes, counselling, staff support networks or informal buddying systems.  Those that had been offered reasonable adjustments was found to be 56% such as changes to hours worked or the nature of some of their workplace duties.

Emma Mamo, head of workplace wellbeing at Mind, said the charity had noticed employers taking “great strides when it comes to tackling stress and supporting the mental wellbeing of their staff” over the last few years. She added that forward-thinking employers were making mental health a priority: “We’ve seen good practice right across the board, from each and every one of the 30 pioneering employers to take part.”

Here at Expert HR Solutions we have experience of dealing with these difficult and sensitive issues says Chris as in a previous incarnation he worked for one of the largest EAP providers in the UK.  If you believe any of your staff are suffering from mental health issues why not give us a call on 01202 611033, the initial consultation will be free, confidential and very supportive.

By Bill Foster, a partner with immigration law firm, Fragomen. In this guest blog, Bill looks at whether Irish and UK nationals will be able to continue cross-border working

There has been much discussion on what the status will be, post Brexit, of Irish nationals living and working in the UK, and UK nationals living and working in Ireland. For organisations with employees who commute over the border on a regular basis, the desire to maintain free movement arrangements and an open border are paramount.

Irish and UK nationals

The common travel area (CTA) arrangements in place between the UK and Ireland allow Irish nationals to live in the UK without immigration controls. This right is enshrined in various pieces of UK legislation that are independent of European law. As with everything Brexit-related, there are many unknowns and much to be decided during the on-going negotiations, including the final status of the CTA. That said, the UK and Irish governments, as well as the EU, have all stated their commitment to maintaining these arrangements, a point reiterated by EU negotiator, Michel Bernier, in his statement to the Irish Parliament in May 2017, as well as the British government in its policy paper on EU citizens released in June. The UK government was keen to set out a clear position on Irish citizens in the policy paper, and stated from the outset its desire to “reflect the long-standing social and economic ties between the UK and Ireland and to protect the common travel area arrangements”.

This stance was reiterated by the British government in its Northern Ireland and Ireland position paper released on 16 August. Of particular note was a commitment to the “preservation of the rights of British and Irish citizens as enjoyed today”. Irish HR professionals concerned about their employees’ ability to access the UK or Irish labour markets post Brexit can take significant comfort from this statement.

In light of the most recent position paper there is no reason to believe the CTA should not remain in place following Brexit. If so, companies with Irish national employees in the UK (and British nationals in Ireland) should not expect those arrangements to be disrupted in the long term.

NI border

Both UK and Irish governments remain committed to a soft border. Should that commitment survive the negotiations (as is broadly anticipated, given the support so far offered by the EU) there should be little or no practical impact on the CTA, and even less for those traversing the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic.

One plan recently put forward by Taoiseach Leo Varadkar to facilitate this would be for the Irish Sea to form the border with the UK, and to maintain the soft border with the north in its current form. However, this has been ill received by some Northern Irish MPs, including the DUP and it was dismissed by the UK government in the August position paper, which also gives a much clearer indication as to how it proposes to control the border.

The proposal is to maintain a soft border and to control the flow of goods through the use of technology. This is certainly a novel approach but further details are needed as this solution is untried and untested. It is also viewed with scepticism by the Irish government, as evidenced by Foreign Minister Stephen Coveney’s comments in Brussels in July, where he expressed concerns that this would be unworkable. From the perspective of any employer, there is absolutely no guidance or indication from the UK government as to whether this technology will be used to monitor only the movement of goods or whether it will apply to people as well. Any attempt to monitor the flow of people would be an extremely unwelcome development for employers.

From an HR planning perspective, it is important to note that citizens in Northern Ireland are considered Irish citizens. This is enshrined as a principle of the Good Friday agreement and reinforced by the British government in the June policy paper, where it states that it will “continue to uphold…….. the rights of the people of Northern Ireland to be able to identify as British or Irish, or both, and to hold citizenship accordingly”.

As such, employees commuting to work from Northern Ireland into the Republic post Brexit can always retain access to the Irish labour market by confirming their Irish citizenship (for example, by securing an Irish passport). This should give comfort to any employer in the Republic that has employees crossing the border. The same is not true for Irish citizens working in Northern Ireland but, as noted above, the rhetoric from all sides remains in favour of maintaining the CTA. Of course, it remains to be seen whether this commitment survives the lengthy negotiations over the coming 18 months and, in turn, the final vote of the remaining 26 nations.

EU citizens post-Brexit

Unlike the situation regarding Irish citizens – where all parties involved in Brexit negotiations retain the will to continue the CTA – the final immigration status of other EU nationals in the UK remains less certain.

The UK government has also set out proposals on this. Those who have been living in the UK for at least five years on a specified date (yet to be determined) and exercising treaty rights (perhaps as a worker or student, for example) will be given ‘settled status’ in the UK, akin to ‘indefinite leave to remain’ status in UK immigration law.

The European Parliament’s Brexit steering committee has already expressed dissatisfaction with the proposed terms, but it’s important to remember this UK policy statement is very much an opening salvo.

What to do now

While the legal landscape remains unclear, there is little concrete advice to offer. However, time spent by HR professionals in the meantime on practical preparation (for example, gathering information on the number of cross-border commuters they employ) could be valuable. Newsletters or ‘town hall’ meetings to provide updates to staff may also serve to settle the nerves of anxious colleagues, and reassure them that HR is alive to the potential issues for Irish nationals as a consequence of the UK’s departure from the EU.

Bill would like to thank Gemma Hyslop and Alex Stanley, at Fragomen, for their support in researching and preparing this blog

There is nothing more frustrating for employers than discovering that an employee dismissed for blatant misconduct has an arguable claim for unfair dismissal. Katherine Pope identifies the top 10 examples of how disciplinary procedures can go wrong for employers.

1. HR involvement in decision-making

Managers carrying out disciplinary investigations and hearings will usually rely on guidance from HR as to policy and procedure, as well as previous disciplinary sanctions for the purposes of consistency.

However, HR involvement should not stray into assessments of the employee’s credibility or culpability.

In Ramphal v Department for Transport, a number of amendments were made to the investigating manager’s draft report and recommendations, following HR involvement.

The recommended sanction increased from a final written warning to summary dismissal for gross misconduct. This suggested that the disciplinary outcome had been improperly influenced by HR and was potentially unfair.

It is for the decision-making manager to decide if he or she is satisfied that the employee committed the misconduct and what the disciplinary outcome should be.

HR advisers should restrict their involvement to issues of law, policy and procedure, and should avoid giving advice on the appropriate sanction, other than to address issues of consistency.

2. Dismissing for a reason not covered by your disciplinary policy

Employers should ensure that their approach complies with all relevant policies, not just the disciplinary procedure.

Whistleblowing and grievance procedures, or policies covering activities outside the workplace, may also be relevant. Once an employer has decided what is acceptable conduct for employees and prepared policies accordingly, these need to be followed.

In McElroy v Cambridgeshire Community Services NHS Trust, an employee was dismissed for coming to work smelling of alcohol.

However, the employer’s substance misuse policy did not ban employees from drinking alcohol before work. Under the policy, the employer offered assistance and support for alcohol misuse, and stated that the disciplinary policy would be applied in cases of continued misuse, or where there was an adverse impact on performance.

The employment tribunal found that, as this threshold had not been reached, the dismissal was unfair.

On the other hand, employers must bear in mind that a dismissal will not necessarily be fair just because the act in question is listed in the employer’s disciplinary policy as an example of gross misconduct.

A fair procedure and consideration of any mitigating factors are still required and the tribunal will still consider if the decision to dismiss was fair in all the circumstances.

3. Relying on breach of implied contractual terms

Employees are obliged to disclose their own wrongdoing only if they owe a fiduciary duty to their employer, or if an obligation arises under their contract of employment.

In the absence of clear wording in the employment contract, it is probably unfair to dismiss an employee for failing to report his or her own misdeeds.

In The Basildon Academies v Amadi, the part-time employee took up a second job in breach of his employment contract. He was arrested following allegations of assault at the second job. His dismissal for failing to disclose these matters was unfair.

The employer could not show a contractual duty to report his alleged wrongdoing, and dismissal purely for taking up a second job was found to be too harsh.

This decision illustrates the danger of seeking to rely on implied terms. While it is possible to include an express contractual term that requires the disclosure of wrongdoing, this is more commonly seen in employment contracts for senior employees.

4. Dismissing for a reason not put to the employee at the outset

Employers must not be tempted to add further matters part of the way through the disciplinary process, unless a full procedure is followed for each allegation.

Alternatively, the employer could state clearly in the outcome letter that the additional allegations did not influence the decision to dismiss.

In Mbuyi v Newpark Childcare (Shepherds Bush) Ltd, the dismissal of a Christian employee who expressed views about a colleague’s homosexuality was found to be both unfair and discriminatory.

The dismissal was unfair because the employee was not given the detail of the allegations in advance of the disciplinary hearing.

Further, the employer reached conclusions and views about the employee based on allegations that were not put to her. The tribunal considered that these views were stereotypical assumptions based on the employee’s religious beliefs. Relying on these assumptions without investigation was enough to infer discrimination.

5. Over-reliance on earlier warnings

Previous warnings can be a minefield for employers. Other than in cases of gross misconduct, dismissal is likely to be unfair unless there is a live final written warning.

While the case law on this point is not clear cut, relying on a first written warning to tip the balance in favour of dismissal (rather than issuing a final written warning) can be risky.

On the other hand, where there is a live final written warning in place, an employer is generally able to rely on this as meaning that any further acts of misconduct will justify dismissal (although see pitfall 6).

The Court of Appeal has held that it is legitimate for an employer to rely on a final warning, provided that it was issued in good faith, there was at least some basis for imposing it and the warning was not manifestly inappropriate to have issued it.

Relying on an expired warning is extremely dangerous. In Bevan Ashford v Malin, a dismissal was found to be unfair where a warning was relied on that had expired one day before the second misconduct occurred.

Further, cases suggest that while expired warnings do not need to be discounted entirely, they cannot be used to tip the balance in favour of dismissal if the current misconduct is not sufficiently serious on its own.

6. Dismissing without considering other sanctions

Do not assume that a finding of gross misconduct automatically justifies summary dismissal.

A tribunal will expect to see evidence that the decision-maker has considered if this is the appropriate penalty in each case.

It is important to consider all the circumstances, including the penalty that has been applied in similar cases, the employee’s length of service and disciplinary record. Any mitigating circumstances should also be taken into account.

These might include the employee’s remorse for his actions as well as any personal circumstances that may be relevant.

For example, in the recent case of Burdett v Aviva Employment Services Ltd, a claimant who suffered from schizophrenia had assaulted colleagues.

The EAT found that it was an error of law for the tribunal to accept that dismissal was automatically within the range of reasonable responses without considering mitigation.

7. Muddling investigatory and disciplinary meetings

If an employee owns up to misconduct during an investigatory meeting, you may be tempted to move straight to a disciplinary sanction. This should be avoided.

There may still be issues that need to be investigated; for example, if the employee alleges that the conduct in question is widespread or condoned by their manager.

Further, the procedural requirements that apply to a disciplinary meeting will not have been followed, meaning that any dismissal is also likely to breach the Acas code of practice on disciplinary and grievance procedures.

Keep a record of the employee’s admission and, once the investigation is complete, convene a separate disciplinary hearing. As usual, the employee should be given time to prepare for the disciplinary hearing and a chance to make representations.

There may be mitigating factors to take into account, and the tribunal will still expect the employer to have acted reasonably and to have considered these.

8. Dismissing without any process during the probationary period

Given that employees who are still under probation have short notice periods and are unable to claim ordinary unfair dismissal, some employers may choose to dismiss without following any procedure during this time.

However, it is important to remember that there is no service requirement for claims of automatically unfair dismissal; for example, dismissal for whistleblowing or for a health and safety reason.

All workers and job applicants are also protected under discrimination law regardless of length of service. Employers should therefore consider if any such issues might arise before moving straight to dismissal.

9. Increasing sanction to dismissal on appeal

Employers sometimes consider increasing a final written warning to dismissal as part of the appeal process.

This might be because the appeal manager takes a different view as to the severity of the misconduct, or because further information comes to light.

Increasing the penalty in this way can be risky. It is important to ensure that such a step is permissible under the employer’s own disciplinary policy.

Employers should bear in mind that such a step is contrary to the Acas code, which expressly states that appeal should not result in an increased sanction (as this may deter individuals from appealing).

If the penalty is increased, it is advisable to offer a second appeal against the new sanction.

In McMillan v Airedale NHS Foundation Trust, the employer sought to increase a final written warning to dismissal on appeal. Its policy did not expressly allow disciplinary sanctions to be increased on appeal. As the disciplinary policy was contractual, the employee was granted an injunction to prevent dismissal.

10. Choosing an inappropriate decision-maker

The Acas code provides that, where possible, different people should conduct the investigation and the hearing and then a further person for any appeal.

The appeal should ideally be heard by someone senior to the original decision-maker and from a different reporting line. This can be a particular problem for small employers, where finding separate decision-makers for the initial hearing and appeal stage can be tricky.

Thankfully, this is an area where case law does allow employers some leniency.

For example, in Adeshina v St George’s University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, the EAT found that specific circumstances must be considered when assessing if the appeal decision-maker is inappropriate.

In that case, there was an appeal panel, so the fact that one member was junior to the original decision maker was not a fatal flaw.

And finally, don’t forget…

With so many potential pitfalls, employers may wonder how a dismissal is ever fair. There are, however, two things to bear in mind.

First, while procedure is important, tribunals retain a degree of pragmatism. Employers do not need to be perfect. As the Adeshina case demonstrates, what they must be is reasonable and above all fair.

Second, while a procedural flaw may result in a technical finding of unfair dismissal, it is still open to the employment tribunal to reduce the compensation awarded, either to reflect the employee’s culpability for his or her own dismissal (contributory fault) or because the procedural errors made no difference to the overall outcome (a Polkey reduction).

That said, it is better to avoid these pitfalls, if only to prevent the waste of time and cost of an employment tribunal.

Employers often fail to give guidelines to staff on what to include in an oral or written disciplinary warning letter. A badly prepared misconduct warning letter can render a dismissal unfair. Bar Huberman sets out the basic ingredients for a misconduct warning letter.

1. Confirm the decision in writing

As soon as possible after a misconduct hearing, the employer should confirm its decision in writing in a disciplinary letter. Simply telling the employee at the disciplinary hearing that you are issuing a formal warning, even where it is an oral warning, is not enough.

The Acas code of practice on disciplinary and grievance procedures states that, after a meeting to discuss a disciplinary issue, the employer should inform the employee of any disciplinary or other action it is taking in writing.

Tribunals take the code into account when considering relevant cases, and can adjust awards made by up to 25% for an unreasonable failure to comply with it.

2. Explain the nature of the misconduct

The misconduct warning letter should provide a summary of the employee’s misconduct, including when the offence occurred.

For example, a warning for poor timekeeping could set out:

the dates on which the employee arrived late for work;
how late the employee was on those occasions;
the employee’s failure to provide a satisfactory explanation for the lateness; and
what impact the misconduct had on the employee’s work and colleagues.

3. Set out the improvement required

The misconduct letter must explain what the employee should do, or not do, to meet the expected standards of conduct.

For example, a disciplinary letter issuing an employee with a first written warning for being rude to a customer could explain the expected standards of behaviour when dealing with customers.

It could also state that the employee’s interaction with customers will be monitored closely over the next three months.

The letter could include a copy of the organisation’s policy on expected standards of behaviour.

4. Point out the possible consequences of a failure to improve

The misconduct warning letter should set out what will happen if the employee fails to improve his or her conduct within the required timescale, for example that the next stage of the disciplinary process and the possible disciplinary sanctions will be triggered.

In JJ Food Service Ltd v Kefil, the Employment Appeal Tribunal held that a dismissal was unfair in part because an earlier informal warning about Mr Kefil’s management style did not say that if he continued to manage in this way he might be dismissed.

5. Specify the length of the warning

The employer should confirm the period of time for which the employee’s warning will remain on file.

According to p.33 of the guidance accompanying the code, a warning should be disregarded for disciplinary purposes after a specific period.

6. Confirm the right of appeal

The misconduct letter should confirm the employee’s right of appeal, and include what steps the employee should take if he or she decides to appeal the decision.

Points to include are:

to whom the appeal should be made;
within what time frame; and
what the appeal should cover.

7. Keep a record of the warning

The disciplinary letter should be kept on the employee’s file while the warning remains current.

This means that, should the employee commit further offences during this period, the employer will be able to make decisions taking into account all relevant facts, even if the employee’s line manager at the time of the original misconduct has left the business.

The employer could ask the employee to sign and return a copy of the misconduct warning letter. This will mean that the employer has a record that the employee received it.