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ACAS Code of Practice - Dismissal and Grievance Procedures

April 2009

From 6th April 2009 (in England, Wales and Scotland but not Northern Ireland) the procedures for dealing with employee grievances and for disciplinary matters will change. Introduced in October 2004, under the Employment Act 2002, the Statutory Dispute Regulations have been repealed by the Employment Act 2008.

The SDR procedures are considered to be too rigid, and unsuitable for some disputes. Following government consultation it was decided to attempt to increase procedural flexibility by dispensing with the statutory codes and replacing these with an updated ACAS Code of Practice.

Whilst this Code of Practice is not legally binding, adherence to it may be taken into account by a Tribunal, and the tribunals will have discretion to adjust awards by up to 25% where an employer unreasonably fails to follow the Code. The new procedures do not apply to the renewal of fixed-term contracts or to redundancy dismissals.

ACAS Code of Practice

Whereas the previous code required employers and employees to follow mandatory steps in their disciplinary and grievance procedures, the new code sets out the principles of reasonable behaviour that should be expected of an employer and employee in matters of dispute.

The Code is seeking to encourage the resolution of disciplinary and grievance issues in the workplace. Where this cannot be achieved employers should consider mediation using independent parties. Many issues should where possible be dealt with informally and management should try to deal these potential problems as soon as possible before they escalate into a dispute.

Employment Disputes during 2009

Transitional provisions will mean that the statutory procedures will continue to apply to events/disputes that occurred before 6th April 2009. If the “trigger” date is on or after 6th April 2009 the new ACAS Code will apply. If the “trigger” date is before 6th April the statutory dispute regulations will apply.

In the case of a disciplinary or dismissal issue, the date of the trigger event will be the date when the employer has started action against the employee. In the case of a grievance issue, the trigger date will be the date of the action about which the employee complains. The statutory grievance procedure will continue to apply where the event to which the grievance/complaint relates occurred before 6th April 2009.

The contents of this Newsletter are for reference purposes only and do not constitute legal advice. Independent legal advice should be sought in relation to any specific legal matter.

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