28 MAY 2018


There isn't a single supervisor on earth that enjoys having a disciplinary meeting. When an employee makes a serious mistake or doesn't perform on the job, it's the manager's responsibility to speak up. With tensions running high, the conversation can go wrong in so many ways. How can you take an uncomfortable situation and treat both the company and the employee with fairness and mutual respect? The answer is documentation.

In all situations, company/employee relations must comply with Malaysian labor laws and specifically the Employment Act of 1955. In the disciplinary process, the correct documents will help you follow the law and keep your company safe from legal action. Here is how to correctly document a disciplinary meeting.

Set Up the Meeting

When you have a disciplinary meeting, it should not be a surprise to the employee. Nobody likes an ambush. Both supervisor and employee should be aware of the timing and the reason for the meeting before it happens. Send the employee a written summons that explicitly states this will be a disciplinary meeting. For legal reasons, be sure and explain that the details of the meeting will be properly recorded.

Have the Meeting

Don’t forget to take notes! Keep a record of everything discussed in this meeting and maintain a copy for HR. The purpose of the meeting is to directly point out any wrongdoing by the employee and explain what further action will be taken.

Explain the Company's Actions

Entrepreneur Magazine recommends that all company rules "should be known and well-understood by all workers". Oral warnings are undocumented and hard to prove. The first warning that has any legal standing is a written warning. After the first written warning is received, a more severe or "final" written warning can be given for further misconduct or poor performance. These written warnings should describe the nature of the employee's misconduct and outline in detail how the employee is expected to change. This improvement by the employee is also called a performance improvement plan or "PIP". The PIP should state how long the employee has to show improvement before facing a consequence. The consequence for any warning is escalation: another warning or termination.

Timelines for Disciplinary Action

Set a time limit on consequences. Expired warnings are a record that the employee showed improvement and satisfactory performance after being disciplined. A first written warning can expire after 6 months. A final written warning should expire 12-18 months after it is given. For legal reasons, a company can't use old disciplinary action to fire an employee. Old disciplinary records can be used as evidence, but are not a reliable reason for dismissal. In cases of gross and extreme misconduct, a company has the right to take immediate action if the employee breaches contractual procedures as stated in the employee handbook. In these cases, suspension with or without pay or even dismissal can be considered. Examples of gross misconduct include theft, fraud, deliberate falsification of records or dishonesty, damage to company property, extreme insubordination, physical violence, or incapacity due to alcohol or drugs. Even for an immediate dismissal, it's still necessary to hold the meeting first as a "domestic inquiry" where the company confronts an issue and the employee is given an opportunity to state their position. The employee should always have the chance to be heard fairly and defend themselves before a dismissal is issued. A proper domestic inquiry is also important to protect the company from Industrial Court regulations regarding unlawful dismissal. In many cases, this procedure also requires a "show cause" letter giving the employee a chance to respond in writing about the case.

Disciplinary Meeting Outcome Letter

However extreme, the company must inform the employee by a written "outcome letter" after the disciplinary meeting is over. This follow-up document states the final decision about the employee's behavior and the action the company intends to take. Even if no action will be taken, a letter should be issued. If you are unsure about how to write a discipline letter or any of the other disciplinary paperwork mentioned, your company should use a legal document service for affordable and professional templates. Small and medium-sized businesses use this type of online document service to get efficient, quality documents that are appropriate for the business environment. Using a document service can help your HR personnel maintain professional communication records and keep your company out of danger from legal action.

Create your initial and final disciplinary letters for free using ShakeUp! by signing up to the Free Trial plan.

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