The Acas Code

The Acas Code of Guidance on Disciplinary and Grievance Procedures sets out good practice guidelines for the handling of disciplinary and grievance issues in employment. The latest version of the Code can be downloaded from the ACAS website. The code applies in England, Wales and Scotland.

The Acas Code sets out minimum standards which employers and employees should follow when dealing with grievances or disciplinary issues including:

•  Employers and employees should raise and deal with issues promptly and should not unreasonably delay meetings, decisions or confirmation of those decisions.

•  Employers and employees should act consistently.

•  Employers should carry out any necessary investigations, to establish the facts of the case.

•  Employers should inform employees of the basis of the problem and give them an opportunity to put their case in response before any decisions are made.

•  Employers should allow employees to be accompanied at any formal disciplinary or grievance meeting.

•  Employers should allow an employee to appeal against any formal decision made.

It is not against the law in itself for employers to fail to follow the Code, but employment tribunals must take it into account when deciding unfair dismissal cases. Also, if the Claimant wins an unfair dismissal, discrimination or many other types of Claim, the tribunal can adjust compensation by up to 25% if the Claimant or the employer failed to follow a recommendation in the Code.

The Code does not apply to redundancy dismissals or the non renewal of fixed term contracts.

If the Claimant is very confident that the Code applies and the employer has not followed a relevant part of it, they could mention this in the tribunal Claim. However, it is not essential to do so in the Claim itself and, if the Claimant is at all uncertain, it is better not to.

More comprehensive advice and guidance on dealing with disciplinary and grievance situations is contained in the Acas booklet, ‘Discipline and grievances at work: the Acas guide’ which is available from the ACAS website. The booklet also contains sample disciplinary and grievance procedures.

This advice applies in England, Wales and Scotland. If you live in another part of the UK, the law may differ. Please call our helpline for more details

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