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New draft Acas Discipline and Grievance Code published

Acas has published the response to its consultation on a revision to its Code of Practice on Discipline and Grievance.

The new paragraphs clarify what rights of accompaniment workers have, who they can choose to accompany them, and good practice surrounding the practicalities of the arrangements.

It also separates the issues of who can be a companion and what constitutes a reasonable request.

The revision was felt necessary following a ruling made in 2013 by the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) about the types of companions that workers can bring with them to grievance or disciplinary meetings.

The EAT found that a worker has the right to chose whoever they like as a companion to a disciplinary and grievance meeting, provided the companion is from an approved category, and the worker has made a reasonable request to be accompanied.

The approved categories are set out in section 10 of the Employment Relations Act 1999 as: fellow worker; a person employed by a trade union; or a certified trade union representative.

Reasonable requests

To exercise their right to be accompanied, workers must make a reasonable request. What is reasonable depends on individual circumstances.

Acas decided to remove its interpretation of what might not be considered reasonable. It had said that it would not normally be reasonable for workers to insist on a companion from a remote location if a suitable alternative was available on site, or someone whose presence would prejudice the hearing.

But now it offers good practice advice, making it clear that its suggestions are not legal requirements.

The new wording suggests a worker may, for example, choose to be accompanied by a companion who is 'suitable, willing and available on site' rather than someone from a geographically remote place.

It also recommends that workers should provide enough time for employers to deal with the companion's attendance at the meeting, and could let the employer know in advance the name of the companion and whether they are a fellow worker, trade union official or representative. 

It makes it clear that workers can 'alter their choice of companion' if they wish, and that employers must postpone the hearing if a worker's companion cannot be available at that time (provided the alternative time is both reasonable and not more than five working days after the date originally postponed).

Designed to help

Anne Sharp, Acas Chief Executive, said, 'Our Code is designed to help employers, employees and their representatives deal with disciplinary and grievance situations in the workplace.'

Vince Cable, Secretary of State for Business, said, 'I am pleased to be laying a new Acas Code of Practice on Discipline and Grievance...

'It is five years since the Code was last reviewed and given the changing nature of conflict and dispute resolution at work, I feel it would now be appropriate to ask Acas to undertake a wider consultation on the Code of Practice as a whole. I have written to the Acas Council to request this.'

The new Code of Practice (pdf icon Acas consultation on the revision of paragraphs 15 and 36 of the Acas Code of Practice on Disciplinary and Grievance Procedures [144kb]) is draft until it has been finalised through a parliamentary process that started on 9 January 2015.

Acas publications and services

Acas has a wealth of advice about Disputes and problems at work.

Its publications on the subject include the pdf icon Acas Code of Practice on Discipline and Grievance [167kb], and the Advisory booklet - Managing conflict at work.

Free template letters are also available for all stages of formal procedures when Disciplining staff.

Acas experts can visit your organisation to help you develop your discipline and grievance procedures, and build more effective working relationships. Go to Disputes and mediation: how Acas can help for details.

For free, impartial advice and guidance visit Acas Helpline Online.

Visit the Acas Training Courses, Workshops and Projects area for more information.


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