Many of you will now be fully aware of the Government’s proposals to repeal the current statutory dispute resolution procedures as part of the proposals under the Employment Bill 2008 (“the Bill”). This will mean that when the Bill is passed, there will be no statutory procedures for employers to follow when dealing with employee disciplinaries, dismissals and grievances.

However, that is by no means the end to the dismissal and grievance procedures that we have all come to love and hate! As part of the proposals under the Bill, ACAS launched a public consultation on its revised draft Disciplinary and Grievance Code of Practice (the Code) on 2 May 2008. The consultation period will end on the 25 July 2008.

The intention of the Government is to replace the current statutory regime with a less prescriptive, but concise and principlebased system for dealing with employee disciplinaries, dismissals and grievances. Essentially, the revised Code going forward will mirror the existing statutory regime, but will not be in a statutory form. Additionally, the Code will have the added emphasis of informal resolution and encourages employers to undertake an investigation stage as part of their procedures.

The main principles of the revised Code include:

  • dealing with issues promptly and consistently;
  • carrying out appropriate investigations;
  • using a manager with no previous involvement in the case for grievance or disciplinary hearings;
  • allowing the employee to put his/her case forward;
  • allowing an employee to be accompanied; and
  • providing an employee with a right of appeal.

The key difference between the Code and the existing statutory dispute resolution procedures is that the Code is not legally binding and an employer’s failure to follow the Code will not result in a Tribunal finding a dismissal to be automatically unfair. This is great news for employers.

A Tribunal will, however, be able to take the Code into account when considering cases before them. Should a Tribunal consider that there has been an unreasonable failure to comply with any provision of the Code, by either the employer or the employee, it will have the power to adjust any compensation awarded by it up or down (up to a maximum 25%) if it considers it just and equitable to do so in all the circumstances. Therefore, employers will be advised to follow the Code where possible.

Following the end of the consultation period, ACAS anticipates that the revised Code will come into force on the same date that the Government introduces the changes to the statutory dispute resolutions regime under the Employment Bill. This is anticipated for April 2009. At the same time, ACAS also intend to publish a fuller, freestanding, non-statutory guidance document providing supporting information on handling workplace disciplinary and grievance issues. At present, this is in its draft format only.

We will be following the developments of the revised draft code and will provide a full report on the provisions of the Code (and the Employment Bill) once finalised. In the meantime, should you wish to comment upon the proposed Code before 25 July 2008, please visit the ACAS website at:

http://www.acas.org.uk/CHttpHandler.ashx?id=880&p=0