People Management: Three minutes with Jane Klauber, partner at Russell Cooke solicitors

What's the latest development on dismissals and disciplinary action?

All organisations, including those with less than 20 staff, be affected by new legislation. They will have to provide details of their disciplinary and grievance procedures on their employment contracts.

Does it also apply to staff on fixed-term contracts? Yes, it applies to the non-renewal of fixed-term contracts and compulsory retirement.

The main exception is collective redundancies.

What procedure must the employer follow? The employer must follow a three-stage disciplinary procedure involving writing to the employee setting out the grounds for disciplinary action, holding a meeting, at which the employee has a right to be accompanied, and providing a right of appeal.

There is a modified two-step procedure if an employee has been dismissed for gross misconduct.

What happens if this procedure is not followed? A dismissal will be ruled unfair automatically if the employee is protected from unfair dismissal, which, in most cases, is dependent on a year's continuous service. Any compensation awarded by an Employment Tribunal may be increased by up to 50 per cent, and four weeks' pay awarded as a penalty. For staff not protected from unfair dismissal, four weeks' pay will be awarded and any other compensation claims may be augmented by up to 50 per cent.

What procedure must be followed if the employee has a grievance? An employee must follow the statutory grievance procedure, otherwise the Employment Tribunal will not entertain an application. This involves lodging a verbal or written grievance and allowing the employer 28 days to respond. The employer must convene a hearing on receipt of the grievance - again, the employee has the right to be accompanied, and a right of appeal.

Why is this of particular concern to charities? People who work in the sector tend to be aware of their rights. We live in litigious times and the cost of defending these cases is very high.

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