The new ACAS Code came into force on 6 April 2009 and regulates the procedures both employers and employees should follow in either a disciplinary or grievance situation. The former rigid statutory procedures have been repealed by the Employment Act 2008. However, there is a fairly complex transitional provision period where these statutory rules will still apply.
In essence, the transitional provisions provide that the statutory procedures shall still apply where the action or omission forming the basis of the grievance occurred before 6 April 2009, or in relation to a disciplinary, if action has been taken by either the employer or employee before 6 April 2009.
The spirit of the new ACAS Code is that both disciplinary and grievances should be dealt with fairly. This will entail dealing with issues promptly without unreasonable delay, employers and employees acting consistently, employers conducting any necessary investigations, employers informing employees of the basis of the problem and that they be allowed an opportunity to put forward their own case. Finally, employees should be allowed to be accompanied to formal meetings and should be given an opportunity to appeal.
Although the Code is not legally binding, a Tribunal is likely to look unfavourably on those who do not follow it without good reason and will have discretion to adjust awards by up to 25% where an employer unreasonably fails to follow it.