New code of practice for workplace discipline agreed

The draft code of practice from Acas on the new rules governing discipline and grievance procedures at work has been approved by Parliament.

The new version of the code will come into effect as from 6 April this year.

The new code means that there will be less emphasis on the mechanics of how to manage disciplinary issues, grievances and dismissals.

Instead, employers and employees will have more flexibility for solving problems at an early stage.

Encouraging better and more direct workplace communication, it is hoped, will reduce the chance of problems going to an employment tribunal, saving employers both time and money.

The revised Acas Code of Practice explains what’s fair and ‘reasonable’ behaviour when tackling problems at work, while a new non-statutory guide will provide employers with more information on how to handle discipline and grievance solutions in the workplace.

Also as part of the reforms, from April, an improved Acas Helpline, on 08457 47 47 47, will be open 8am-8pm Monday to Friday and 9am-1pm on Saturdays.

A new, free early conciliation service will be available through the Acas Helpline.

Before the new code comes into effect, employers are being advised to review their disciplinary and grievance procedures so they are compatible with the new law, but to bear in mind that the three-stage statutory procedure must still be followed in disciplinary or grievances cases started before 6 April 2009.

Acas advised that employers should also identify where a more relaxed and informal approach to dealing with problems at work may be appropriate and consider including a mediation stage in their internal processes.

A copy of the new code can be downloaded at http://www.acas.org.uk/dgcode2009