In April 2009, the statutory procedures on dispute resolution were replaced by a new ACAS statutory Code of Practice on disciplinary and grievance procedures. This contains a set of principles based on general good practice rather than detailed and prescriptive procedural guidance. Two years on, ACAS has published a research paper which contains the results of interviews with employers, employees and their representatives on how the Code is shaping up in practice.
The paper looks at awareness and understanding of the Code, its use and impact on policies and handling of disciplinary cases. It provides some interesting reading, particularly the first hand experiences of working with the Code. The general consensus is that the principles based approach is successful in providing flexibility in procedural detail, such as timeframes and communication of decisions, and freeing employers from imposing disproportionate formality and using unnecessary senior staff time. However, there was some dissatisfaction, stemming from uncertainty about the legal status of the Code and the interpretation required in the guiding principles of "fair" and "reasonable". In this context, the non-statutory guidance, in particular the workplace examples and sample letters, has been helpful.