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Important new procedures for employers

29 Jun 2010

Sarah Hall, a partner in the employment team at Hay & Kilner Solicitors, looks at the new ACAS Code of Practice, ahead of an informative seminar.

The statutory three-step grievance and disciplinary procedures will no longer apply from 6 April 2009. ACAS have produced a revised Code of Practice to help parties in dealing with disciplinary or grievance matters from April. This will be supported by guidance, which is intended to help employers understand what is required of them. The Code and guidance will revise the way in which disciplinary and grievance matters are dealt with in the workplace.

Unlike the current statutory procedures, a failure to follow the Code will not result in a finding of ‘automatic’ unfair dismissal. However, Tribunals will take into account the Code and may increase or decrease an award by up to 25% if either party has acted ‘unreasonably’ in failing to follow it. The many ‘principles’ set out in the Code will need to be interpreted by Tribunals and applied to the facts of any particular case. Employers who are unfamiliar with the principles are likely to face expensive Tribunal claims.

The Code provides that where disciplinary or grievance procedures are being followed employers should:

  • deal with issues promptly;
  • act consistently;
  • carry out necessary investigations to establish facts;
  • explain the issue to the employee and allow them to respond before making any decision; and
  • allow the employee to be accompanied at meetings.

The Code also provides more specific guidance on handling disciplinary issues. For example, employers must:

  • Inform the employee of the problem in writing in ‘sufficient’ detail
  • Allow reasonable time to prepare
  • Hold a meeting to discuss the problem and the ‘evidence’
  • Allow the employee to ask questions, present evidence and call witnesses
  • Provide the employee with an opportunity to appeal

 

 

In respect of grievances employers must:

  • Hold a meeting to discuss the problem
  • Consider adjourning for investigation
  • Decide on appropriate action and confirm in writing
  • Allow the employee to appeal

From April it will no longer be necessary for an employee to pursue a grievance before submitting a claim to a Tribunal. This could result in an increase in the number of claims issued.

Until April employers must continue to comply with the three-step procedures. In the meantime they should familiarise themselves with the requirements of the new Code and identify any changes to existing procedures. For further advice contact Sarah Hall on 0191 232 8345 or email sarah.hall@hay-kilner.co.uk

Please note:
This article is not legal advice; it is intended to provide information of general interest about current legal issues. Please contact us to discuss how the contents of the article may affect you.