Industrial Relations Advisory – Progressive Discipline

The term “progressive discipline” is often used in situations of industrial relations conflict where termination has taken place. This happens most often where the Industrial Court makes an award against an employer for not having dealt with the dismissal: “in accordance with the principles of good industrial relations”

Progressive discipline is a graduated scale of disciplinary measures ranging from bringing to the notice of the offender that a particular behavior is contrary to accepted practice and explaining how the behavior can be corrected to verbal warnings to ultimate dismissal. The intent of progressive discipline is not to punish the employee, but rather to emphasize and encourage improvement in employee conduct, hence minimizing the chance that the unacceptable behavior will recur.


The purpose of progressive discipline is to ensure that unacceptable behaviour is clearly spelled out to the employee without room for misunderstanding, and making certain that the employee is aware of the organization’s approach to dealing with misconduct as well as to ensure that any consequent action(s) taken by the organization as a result of an employee’s misconduct and/or continuation of misconduct must be reasonably in proportion to the misconduct itself.


It should be noted that not all acts of misconduct will be handled through the Progressive Discipline approach. There are acts of misconduct that cause enough damage to the Company to warrant instant, or what is called “summary ‘ dismissal”, such as theft , open sabotage or fraud, but even in those extreme cases, there are standard principles, called  ; ‘ the principles of natural justice” that must be followed.

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