Code of Practice 1 - Disciplinary and Grievance Procedures
The Acas statutory Code of Practice on discipline and grievance is set out at paras 1 to 45 on the following pages. It provides basic practical guidance to employers, employees and their representatives and sets out principles for handling disciplinary and grievance situations in the workplace. The Code does not apply to dismissals due to redundancy or the non-renewal of fixed term contracts on their expiry. Guidance on handling redundancies is contained in Acas' advisory booklet on Redundancy Handling.
The Code is issued under section 199 of the Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992 and was laid before both Houses of Parliament on 9 December 2008. It comes into effect by order of the Secretary of State on 6 April 2009 and replaces the Code issued in 2004.
A failure to follow the Code does not, in itself, make a person or organisation liable to proceedings. However, employment tribunals will take the Code into account when considering relevant cases. Tribunals will also be able to adjust any awards made in relevant cases by up to 25 per cent for unreasonable failure to comply with any provision of the Code. This means that if the tribunal feels that an employer has unreasonably failed to follow the guidance set out in the Code they can increase any award they have made by up to 25%. Conversely, if they feel an employee has unreasonably failed to follow the guidance set out in the code they can reduce any award they have made by up to 25%.
Employers and employees should always seek to resolve disciplinary and grievance issues in the workplace. Where this is not possible employers and employees should consider using an independent third party to help resolve the problem (page 7 of the Discipline and grievances at work: The Acas guide [1Mb]). The third party need not come from outside the organisation but could be an internal mediator, so long as they are not involved in the disciplinary or grievance issue. In some cases, an external mediator might be appropriate.
Many potential disciplinary or grievance issues can be resolved informally (page 10 of Discipline and grievances at work: The Acas guide [1Mb]). A quiet word is often all that is required to resolve an issue. However, where an issue cannot be resolved informally then it may be pursued formally. This Code sets out the basic requirements of fairness that will be applicable in most cases; it is intended to provide the standard of reasonable behaviour in most instances.
Employers would be well advised to keep a written record (page 15 of Discipline and grievances at work: The Acas guide [1Mb]) of any disciplinary or grievances cases they deal with.
Organisations may wish to consider dealing with issues involving bullying, harassment or whistleblowing under a separate procedure.
More comprehensive advice and guidance on dealing with disciplinary and grievance situations is contained in the Acas guidance booklet, "Discipline and Grievances at Work: The Acas Guide". The booklet also contains sample disciplinary and grievance procedures. Copies of the guidance can be obtained from Acas.
Unlike the Code employment tribunals are not required to have regard to the Acas guidance booklet. However, it provides more detailed advice and guidance that employers and employees will often find helpful both in general terms and in individual cases.