Q&A Can my son get disciplinary from work if he was unaware of policies?

Q: My son has received a disciplinary at work for referring to a client (out of her hearing) as ‘an old lady’. He is only 17 and is still on his probationary six-month period. He is really upset about this and when he tried to put matters right, he was told it was also unacceptable to refer to someone as an ‘elderly person’. He hasn’t been dismissed but I still feel we should try and fight the disciplinary as it has affected his confidence and it was such a petty thing. Can you advise?

A: Firstly, it should be said that if an employee is still on a probationary period, they are in fact still ‘in training’ and until they have been in the job for two years, they do not have the right to claim unfair dismissal.

However, their employer must still follow a fair and reasonable process when dealing with performance issues. This includes providing clear expectations, feedback, and support to help them improve their performance. They should also be given an opportunity to respond to criticisms. Failure to do this and/or not follow relevant company policies or procedures could result in a claim for discrimination or breach of contract, irrespective of length of service.

Where an employee is not performing to required standards, it is essential that their employer identifies whether the problem is a conduct issue or a performance issue, as distinguishing between the two is the only way to ensure the issue is dealt with appropriately.

For guidance, if an employee is willing and trying hard, but fails to perform to the required standard, then it is likely to be a performance/capability issue and further training and support may be needed. If an employee has the necessary skills, training, and capability to perform their role, but still fails due to laziness, inattention or refusal, then it is likely to be a conduct-related issue and can be dealt with under the firm’s disciplinary policy.

This question has been answered by James Denton, a Solicitor with GHP Legal.

If you would like to speak to someone about this or any other legal matter, book an appointment by visiting GHP Legal or contacting one of our offices:

Wrexham Office

Email: wrexham@ghplegal.com

Phone: 01978 291456

Llangollen Office:

Email: llangollen@ghplegal.com

Phone: 01978 860313

Oswestry Office:

Email: oswestry@ghplegal.com

Phone: 01691 659194

James Denton

James Denton


Solicitor in our Civil Litigation team in the Oswestry and Wrexham offices.