Misconduct & Discipline

Discipline in the Workplace


Employees are expected to act in a responsible manner and perform their duties as expected. It is the supervisor's role to define and communicate expectations for employees, provide the appropriate tools and support and act fairly and in a timely fashion when those expectations are not being met. As the employer, it is the supervisor's responsibility to instill in employees the desire and means to comply with the Oath of Employment and Standards of Conduct. Supervisors are responsible for training, coaching, counselling, mentoring and setting a good example.

It is only when these approaches fail that disciplinary action may become necessary. Discipline is only for culpable behaviour. Culpable behaviour is when the employee knows the rules and expectations and is capable of meeting them, but chooses not to. The purpose of discipline is to correct the lapse in conduct.

As a supervisor, your task is to help employees understand their expectations and assist them to meet defined standards of attendance, performance and behaviour. In some cases, corrective action may be necessary to make it clear what behaviour is required. Corrective action can also act as a deterrent, preventing other employees from engaging in similar misconduct.

There are no shortcuts in discipline. The first step is to fully understand the situation, and the second step is to seek advice from a human resources adviser and to follow the advice. Not handling disciplinary issues properly could result in

  • Appearance that the conduct is acceptable
  • Diminished workplace morale and trust
  • Damaging the relationship with the employee
  • A grievance being filed that is difficult to defend

It is critical that you work directly with a human resources adviser to determine the right course of action.


Workplace rules & policies

Supervisors are responsible for ensuring employees understand and abide by the BC Public Service human resources policies, the collective agreements and the terms and conditions for excluded employees. If the employee does not adhere to the rules and policies, the supervisor must make sure the employee is aware of the consequences.

Employees are required to do the work as assigned to them. Any concerns employees have about the rules must be dealt with separately. This does not apply if they've been asked to do a task that is illegal, unsafe or contrary to legislation. Advice is available through AskMyHR if supervisors have any questions regarding workplace human resources policies.

Identifying conduct issues

It is important to maintain uninterrupted, harmonious operations at the workplace. This requires employees to perform their duties in a responsible manner that is consistent with their obligations and within other employees' rights and interests of the organization. Employees are expected to act responsibly and should be held accountable for their actions. It is the supervisor's role to define expectations for employees, provide the appropriate tools and support and act fairly and in a timely fashion when those expectations are not being met.

Workplace issues that may arise include unacceptable attendance, unsatisfactory performance or inappropriate behaviour.

Usually, it is easy to determine an issue exists. What is not so easy is to define the specific issue in a labour relations context. Is it culpable or non-culpable, a minor matter or significant? Understanding the difference between the types of issues is essential because each requires a different employer response.

When we say unacceptable attendance, performance or behaviour is culpable, we are defining the conduct as having occurred through the intentional actions of the employee. In other words, the employee knows what is expected, is capable of meeting the expectations, but does not do so.

Non-culpable attendance, performance or behaviour issues are not the fault of the employee. In other words, the employee knows what is expected and is not capable of meeting the expectations.

Both culpable and non-culpable conduct undermines the employment relationship and must be addressed by supervisors and managers. However, the approach taken in each of these situations is different.

Criminal notification

If an employee is arrested, charged or convicted of any criminal offence or any other federal or provincial statutory offence, the employee must notify the Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor General, Personnel Security Screening Office. The employee is not required to notify his or her supervisor. The Personnel Security Screening Office will determine whether the incident is relevant to the employee’s position and advise the deputy minister if there is a potential employment issue.

Minor allegations of employee misconduct

Supervisors and managers are required to seek advice from the BC Public Service Agency promptly after being made aware of allegations of employee misconduct. In these circumstances, managers must first consult with an agency representative before commencing any review, investigation or suspension of an employee.

See Investigations of Employee Misconduct to learn how to notify the BC Public Service Agency of alleged or suspected misconduct and how investigations are conducted.

Applying discipline

Discipline is appropriate for culpable misconduct only. Should misconduct be determined and the employee deemed to be at fault, a range of disciplinary options are available to the employer. The purpose of discipline is to correct the employee's present and future behaviour.

The appropriate level of discipline in a given circumstance requires consideration of a number of factors. In partnership with a human resource adviser, supervisors should consider these factors when determining the level of discipline required. In cases of long suspensions, demotion or dismissal, an employee relations specialist may be asked to assist you.

Labour relations training & support for managers

The Learning Centre offers a series of courses and E-learning tools to help you learn more about labour relations and develop the skills you need to address problems in the workplace. These courses are restricted to managers and supervisors.

Please visit the Learning Centre to register for the following courses and E-learning tools:

  • Labour Relations 101 - a basic, general course about understanding the structure of the collective agreement, the legislation behind it and how to use the agreement
  • Labour Relations 201 - an interactive classroom workshop that helps you develop skills and knowledge to effectively manage and address concerns regarding employee performance, absenteeism or misconduct
  • Labour Relations 301 - a course with information and tools needed to investigate workplace issues and make decisions in a fair, productive and defensible manner
  • Labour Relations Investigations – a 90-minute online resource that provides essential information, key steps, skills and tools to conduct routine investigations of allegations of employee wrongdoing

In addition, a human resource adviser can provide you with advice and guidance on the following issues:

  • Allegations of inappropriate behaviour, attendance or performance and advice on whether the behaviour/performance is culpable or non-culpable
  • General inquiries about investigations
  • How to address general workplace conflict and team dysfunction