Our Employment Law Advisers often receive calls from anxious employers about how to handle disciplinary and grievance issues.
Rightly so, because not following the correct procedure can land you in an Employment Tribunal. With charges for tribunals now unlawful, there is no barrier to a disgruntled employee taking you to an employment tribunal and potentially costing you thousands.
The ACAS Code of Practice on Disciplinary and Grievance Procedure lays down the key principles for handling these situations in the workplace.
- Try and resolve the issue informally;
- The rules should be in writing and be specific, clear and accessible;
- Any issues that arise should be brought up and managed promptly. Meetings, decisions or confirmation of decisions should not be unreasonably delayed;
- Both employees and employers should act in a consistent way;
- Employers need to conduct any necessary investigation to ascertain the facts;
- Employers need to tell their employees about the problem and give them the chance to put their case in response before taking action;
- Employees have the right to be accompanied by a colleague or trade union representative to formal grievance or disciplinary hearings; and
- Employees have the right to appeal any formal decisions that have been made.
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There are a number of common breaches of the ACAS Code committed by employers, including:
Effect of non-compliance
Although it is not legally binding and you are not breaking the law if you breach its provisions, it is still important to follow the ACAS guidance. If you do face a claim, an Employment Tribunal will consider whether the ACAS Code of Practice has been followed.
The ACAS Code of Practice recognises that not all employers will be able to follow every single step that the Code lays down, but if it is found that the employer has unreasonably not followed the Code of Practice, the compensatory award may be increased by up to 25%.
Equally, if an employee is at fault, for example, they do not turn up to a disciplinary hearing and have no justification, their compensation may be reduced by up to 25%.