Acas consults on draft Code of Practice on discipline and grievance

The Code is intended to come into force in April 2009 at the same time as the abolition of the hated statutory Dispute Resolution procedures, and is currently open for consultation. Acas have taken the tack of having two documents – a Code of Practice, and a document containing wider guidance. The consultation document notes that many have called for a shorter, simpler code, and this indeed is what they’ve delivered.  By way of reminder, failure to follow the Code of Practice will not in itself be determinative of a legal issue such as fairness, as is the current case with the statutory procedures. Instead, it will be a factor to which the tribunal can have regard, and non-compliance will also empower the tribunal to adjust any compensation by up to 25%.

This seems sensible – it means the code of practice rewards compliance and punishes non-compliance, but isn’t so absolute in its effect such as to result in injustice.

I’m pretty stunned by the simplicity of the document, which can be found here. Those used to Acas guidance will have been checking the amount of paper in the printer, but no need here. The full document, including the consultation what nots, is a mere 14 pages. The steps that should be followed are fairly uncontroversial, but have a look for yourself. One paragraph that did catch my eye was this:

23. Some acts, termed gross misconduct, are so serious that they may call for summary dismissal for a first offence.

What this, with its surrounding paragraphs, says is that dismissal on the first offence can only be for gross misconduct. Whilst that will be the case 95% of the time, I’m not sure that as a statement it’s correct in law.

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