Disciplinaries in the workplace have risen by 15% over the past year according to research from specialist HR recruiter Ortus.

On average the number of formal disciplinaries carried out in the workplace has increased by 15% over the past twelve months, 16% over the past two years and by nearly a fifth (18%) over the past five – suggesting a correlation with the economic recovery.

Supporting these findings, a quarter (25%) of HR professionals reported an increase in disciplinary action over the past twelve months, nearly a third (30%) over the past two years and 38% over the past five.

Most common reasons for disciplinary action:

  1. Poor performance (81%)
  2. Personal misconduct (49%)
  3. Unauthorised absences (35%)
  4. Poor timekeeping (33%)
  5. Professional misconduct (31%)

A fifth (20%), also referred to misuse of the internet and breaches of social media policies as one of the most common reasons, while drug and alcohol misuse was the third least common factor at just 7%.

According to statistics released by the ONS, workplace absences due to sickness have fallen by nearly a third compared to a decade ago. However, employment experts suggest the figures are not necessarily evidence of less sickness; rather employers are tightening up absence policies and imposing stricter action for falsified sick days; resulting in fewer ‘sickies’.

Nicholas Croucher, Director of Specialist HR recruiter Ortus said: “During the recession, cost cutting and lower job security meant there was no room for complacency and therefore disciplinaries were less common. With many companies now through the worst of the recession, HR professionals have an important role to play in ensuring bad habits don’t return and that companies can benefit from their leaner structures and actually prosper more than they did before. Disciplinaries are a key tool in ensuring any bad practice is stamped out immediately so the recovery can gain a firmer hold.”

Terminations and tribunals

Nearly a third of HR professionals revealed an employee’s contract was terminated following a formal disciplinary. However, four fifths (80%) said that the most common outcome was a written warning.

The increasing prevalence of disciplinaries and subsequent dismissals has given rise to an increase in cases brought to an employment tribunal.  Figures calculated by commercial law firm EMW, using data from the HM Courts and Tribunals Service, show there were 625,371 outstanding employment tribunal cases up to the end of the third quarter of 2013. This is up 10% from the previous year and almost two and a half times greater than it was just five years ago, when the backlog was 251,900.

Nicholas Croucher continues: “The increasing volume of cases brought to a tribunal and the rising backlog highlights the importance of a clear and effective disciplinary process. For both parties it is far easier to settle disputes quickly and fairly, rather than get stuck in the quagmire of tribunals”