Acas has published the latest draft of its Code of Practice, to come into effect on the repeal of the statutory disciplinary and grievance procedures in April 2009.

When in force, the Code of Practice will have statutory effect, and non compliance with the Code (by either employers or employees) may result in compensation being adjusted by up to 25%.

The statutory Code will be supported by more detailed, non-statutory, guidance. The Code does not apply to ‘no fault’ dismissals, i.e. redundancies and the expiration of fixed term contracts.

Key points in the draft Code are:

  • employers will be expected to attempt to resolve disputes internally if possible, using a neutral mediator where necessary. As we reported last month, Acas have published a new guide to mediation so it is now even more important that you familiarise yourself with this document; 
  • it is recommended that a written record is kept of disciplinary and grievance procedures; but
  • employers and employees will be required to put grievances and notification of disciplinary issues in writing;
  • employees will be entitled to be accompanied at investigatory and disciplinary meetings;
  • if employees are unable or unwilling to attend meetings, then the Code confirms that employers will be entitled to go ahead and make a decision based on the available evidence.

It is unlikely that there will be further substantive amendment to the Code before it comes into force in the Spring. So, you may wish to start planning for the forthcoming changes on the basis of the current draft Code. To assist with this, Bevan Brittan’s 2008 ‘hot topics’ workshops, hosted at our offices in December, will cover practical planning for the April 2009 changes.