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Effective Workplace Discipline

Effective Workplace Discipline:

Navigating Progressive Discipline, Just Cause, and Due Process in Philippine Labor Law By: Atty. Apollo X.C. S. Sangalang


Maintaining a harmonious and productive work environment requires effective workplace discipline. In the Philippines, this involves a careful balance of progressive discipline, and adherence to just cause and due process in employment termination. This article explores the key elements of effective workplace discipline in accordance with Philippine labor law.

I. Understanding Progressive Discipline:

Progressive discipline is a fundamental concept in effectively managing workplace behavior. It is a structured approach that seeks to correct employee misconduct or poor performance through a series of escalating steps that starts with giving feedback. The primary aim is to develop the employee rather than to punish him.

In the Philippines, progressive discipline is essential. Employers should establish clear policies and procedures for addressing misconduct or performance issues. These typically include: feedback; verbal warnings with coaching and counseling sessions; written warnings with coaching and counseling sessions; final warning; and, as a last resort, dismissal. The principle of progressive discipline aligns with the broader goal of protecting employees' rights, ensuring fairness, and providing them with opportunities to improve. Thus, it is sometimes referred to as positive discipline.

II. Just Cause for Termination:

Under Philippine labor law, termination of employment (when initiated by the employer) must be based on just or authorized causes. Just causes include serious misconduct, willful disobedience, gross and habitual neglect of duties, fraud or willful breach of trust, crime against the employer, and other serious offenses under company policies. Employers must carefully document incidents of misconduct, negligence or incompetence, as well as inefficiency, providing substantial evidence to support their allegations against the employee

It's crucial to adhere to the principles of just cause to avoid legal repercussions. Employees have the right to contest their dismissal, and employers must be prepared to substantiate their actions before labor authorities or courts if necessary. Missteps in this process can result in illegal termination claims.

III. Due Process in Employment Termination:

Due process is a critical aspect of workplace discipline and is enshrined in the Philippine Constitution, as well as in labor law. Employers must provide employees with written notice of the charges against them and give them ample opportunity to explain, to be heard and to defend themselves. This includes an administrative investigation, giving the employee the chance to present their side of the story, and a fair and impartial written decision.

To ensure due process, employers should follow these steps:

1. Conduct an Initial Investigation: Employers should gather evidence and conduct a thorough investigation to support their case. 2. Issue a Notice to Explain (NTE) or Show-Cause Letter: This formally informs the employees of the allegations and the evidence against them, and requests them to give their side of the story through a written explanation with their evidence attached.

3. Hold a Hearing or Conference: Allow the employee to further explain their side of the story in a formal meeting and to present their witnesses and evidence.

4. Render a Decision: Based on the evidence, make a fair and well-documented decision.

5. Serve the Notice of Termination: If the verdict of dismissal is supported by the evidence, serve the notice to the employee in accordance with labor law requirements.

IV. Legal Safeguards for Employees:

Employees have legal safeguards to protect them from illegal termination. Philippine labor law guarantees security of tenure, and illegal dismissal can lead to reinstatement with full backwages and other damages.

In cases of constructive dismissal, where the employer, instead of dismissing the employee, unreasonably makes his working conditions so difficult that resignation becomes the only viable option, the employee can also seek legal redress similar to illegal termination.

V. Best Practices for Employers:

To effectively implement workplace discipline within the bounds of Philippine labor law, employers should consider the following best practices:

1. Consistent Application: Ensure that progressive discipline procedures are consistently applied to all employees to avoid claims of discrimination, favoritism or unfair treatment.

2. Clear Policies and Documentation: Maintain well-defined company policies, thoroughly document incidents, and provide written warnings whenever necessary.

3. Legal Consultation: Seek legal counsel or consult with HR experts to ensure that all disciplinary actions are in compliance with the law.

4. Employee Training: Train employees and managers on company policies, expectations, and the disciplinary process.


Effective workplace discipline is a delicate balancing act in the Philippine context. By understanding and implementing progressive discipline, adhering to just cause, and respecting due process, employers can maintain a productive and legally compliant work environment while protecting the rights of employees. It is crucial for businesses to navigate this landscape carefully to avoid potential legal pitfalls and promote a culture of fairness and accountability in the workplace.

Reference: Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) Department Order No. 147-15 Series of 2015.

Recommended Next Step: Attend the author’s seminar organized by Ariva Academy: Effective Workplace Discipline:

The Management Prerogative of Line Managers and Supervisors


October 26, 2023


8am to 5pm


Crowne Plaza Manila Galleria

Ortigas Center, Pasig City

To Register:

Or Call:



For More Details:

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