What is the aim of counselling?
An employer should resist the temptation to launch straight into the formal disciplinary procedure when an employee's work or conduct is not up to scratch. Sometimes all that is needed is an informal discussion with the employee. This can be the most effective way to improve his or her future conduct or performance.
How should you carry out counselling?
Try to find out if the problem (for example, persistent absence or lateness or poor performance) really is a disciplinary matter. It may be that the underlying problem is a financial, domestic or health one that the company may be able to help the employee to overcome.
Point out any shortcomings in performance or conduct. Make constructive criticism and encourage the worker to improve.
Where an improvement is required, ensure that the employee understands what needs to be done, how performance or conduct will be reviewed, and over what period. The employee should be told that if there is no improvement the next stage might be the formal disciplinary procedure.
Care has to be taken that a counselling interview does not turn into a formal disciplinary hearing as this may unintentionally deny the employee certain rights, such as the right to be accompanied. If during the discussion it becomes obvious that the matter is more serious, the meeting should be adjourned. It should be made clear that the matter will be pursued under the formal disciplinary procedure.
Keep a brief note of any counselling for reference purposes. It should not be confused with action taken under the formal disciplinary procedure.
Where can you get more information?
JACS has information leaflets on managing disciplinary procedures and is available to give advice.
This includes the JACS Code of Practice Disciplinary and Grievance Procedures.