When dispensing discipline goes wrong

When dispensing discipline goes wrong

From time to time, as an employer you’ll be faced with the situation where an employee does something wrong. It may be a minor case of wrongdoing or perhaps a more serious instance of misconduct. What disciplinary action can you take?

The most common type of disciplinary action is to issue the employee with a warning – either verbally or in writing – to alert them to the actions or behaviours the employer considers to be inappropriate.

But, at REEF, we often hear from employers who have come up with other, more novel ideas when it comes to disciplinary action.

When it comes to disciplinary action against an employee, care should always be exercised to ensure your actions are within the limits of the law.


Imposing fines

Employers often consider issuing a fine or monetary penalty against an employee as a result of their actions or behaviours.

While it might seem like a good idea, it’s important to remember that, as a general rule, as an employer you have no right to issue a fine against an employee in the course of employment. To do so, you need to seek an order from a relevant court – so be careful with those ‘in-house’ fines issued to employees for arriving late to staff meetings!


Deducting monetary shortfalls

Where an employee has financial management responsibilities and there’s a shortfall in the money being managed, an employer can’t simply deduct the shortfall from the employee’s pay.

Likewise, a deduction can’t be made from an employee’s pay where a trust account shortfall is identified. To do so, you need to prove the case against the employee in court and seek an order for the recovery of the money.

Where financial management handling problems are identified, you might be able to implement other disciplinary measures such as removing the responsibility from the employee or, in more serious circumstances, terminating their employment.


Suspending from work

Employers don’t have an automatic right to suspend an employee, either with or without pay.

However, suspension (usually with pay) is a device that can be used to allow for a proper investigation of a complaint against an employee while they’re not in the workplace.

Suspension may be used if you consider that damage to the business, loss of evidence or objections from customers may occur if the employee continues to work in the position while under investigation.

Withholding wages

Employers aren’t entitled to withhold an employee’s wage where the wage payment relates to work already performed.


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About REEF

The Real Estate Employers' Federation is the real estate industry’s leading not-for-profit employer and workplace relations advisory association. It has more than 1600 members and subscribers across Australia.

Each year, REEF receives more than 20,000 calls from real estate employers needing help and guidance on matters affecting the employment relationship.

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