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Disciplinaries – Can an apology make a difference?

With the Prime Minister hitting the headlines for his apology over ‘party-gate’, employers may find themselves wondering what difference an apology can make when it comes to dealing with disciplinary matters in their workplace. Should it be taken into account? Could it impact a disciplinary outcome?

“…that was my mistake and I apologise for it unreservedly”

Party-gate has already had us talking about workplace investigations but what’s helpful for employers to know when it comes to workplace apologies?

It may impact a disciplinary outcome

It’s important that disciplinary outcomes are reasonable, especially dismissals. If they aren’t they could be vulnerable to challenge whether by an internal appeal from an employee or in some cases a complaint to an employment tribunal about how they have been treated.

Making sure an outcome is reasonable will involve considering all the facts and circumstances of the case – including mitigating factors such as an employee showing remorse. Whilst an apology / remorse isn’t a ‘get-out of jail free card’, it shouldn’t simply be ignored either as in some situations it could mean a lesser sanction would be more appropriate.

When it comes to mitigating circumstances, it’s not just remorse employers need to watch out for. A variety of circumstances may be relevant when deciding on an outcome, including factors such as:

  • The employee’s length of service
  • The employee’s previous disciplinary record
  • Whether there were any extenuating circumstances e.g did the employee act whilst under extreme stress

If you are concerned about a possible conduct issue in your workplace, please contact us for specific advice on the facts of your case before taking any action.

We are here to help with any employment law matter so please get in touch.


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