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Small businesses should take heed of the Acas Code

It's in the best interests of small and micro businesses to do whatever they can to resolve workplace disputes quickly and effectively. Disputes can have a massive impact on small businesses and the longer problems rumble on, the more serious the repercussions tend to be.

Research shows that employees in small organisations are more likely to feel fairly treated by their managers than other employees. But when relations go sour, the closer, more intimate working environment of a small business sometimes means it's more likely for both sides to take complaints and grievances very personally. This can be disastrous for morale and increases the likelihood of bad feeling - and resignations.

Issues can often be resolved informally with just a quiet word. But small business employers can't afford to assume that this will always be the case - which is why it's so important for them to have adequate disciplinary and grievance procedures in place.

Acas has authored the statutory Code of Practice, Discipline and grievance - Acas Code of Practice, which sets out the basic requirements of fairness and provides the standard of reasonable behaviour in most situations. An effective procedure which has been agreed in consultation with employees and representatives will make it much easier to resolve disputes quickly and fairly.

If it comes to it, evidence of having followed the Code in agreed disciplinary and grievance procedures will help employers defend against claims of constructive dismissal or discrimination. Employment tribunals take account of the Code and can adjust awards by up to 25 per cent if they feel an employer or employee has failed to comply with it.

Discipline and grievances at work: The Acas guide gives comprehensive guidance and includes detailed advice specifically tailored to small businesses.

Acas offers training in how to manage Discipline and grievance as well as mock employment tribunal sessions (listed on the Disputes resolution page). Visit the Acas Training Courses, Workshops and Projects area for more information.

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