Disciplinary Action and Trade Union Representation

Even in the best-managed and highly motivated groups of scientists, there are occasions when disciplinary action will need to be taken with some individual.

A case of failure to meet performance criteria over a reasonable period of time will initially be dealt with by the performance related pay system. However, when poor performance persists over an extended period, even after trying the person in other roles and giving an official warning, then termination of employment will be the result. Depending on the company's procedures this could be a lengthy process and the HR manager needs to be involved at every stage to ensure that an "unfair dismissal" charge is avoided.

The same procedure will be followed if disciplinary action is required when a person fails to meet the general terms and conditions of employment, outside or beyond personal performance criteria, agreed with the company.

In many cases disciplinary actions will involve discussion with the relevant trade unions. This will depend on many factors including whether unions enjoy full negotiating or representational rights with the company. In most countries of the EU such rights are enshrined in the Social Chapter but not all countries are signatories to this part of the treaty. Negotiations with trade unions will be lead by the HR function. A Manager needs to be aware of the procedures to be followed within the company and not take unilateral action.

The last few years has seen a significant growth in the use of fixed term and personal contracts, where the reward is not governed by collective bargaining [A-4]. There are many reasons for a company wishing to use fixed term contracts and a few in R&D are given below.

• To retain staff for short period in order to complete a project.

• To create a period of review for new staff before offering permanent employment.

• To utilise experienced staff who may only want to work for a fixed period.

• To employ on a temporary basis somebody with a particular skill or competence.

Fixed term contacts are ones that run for a fixed period of time regardless of the level of the employee or whether by oral or written agreement. Having a written agreement is obviously advisable for most employees and, as a very minimum; the contract should contain the following clauses.

• A termination date, e.g. "until 16 April 2008 or for two years from 16 April 2006".

• A statement on renewal, e.g. " a decision on renewal of this contract will be made on 16 April 2008".

• A termination clause for breach of contract, e.g. serious misconduct, breach of confidentiality, inability to complete the contract due to extended illness.

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