ACAS have published in draft the latest version of their Code of Practice on Discipline and Grievance at work. The Employment Bill, which is currently passing its way through Parliament, will enable an Employment Judge (as Employment Tribunal Chairmen are now known) to increase or decrease an award by up to 25% for ‘unreasonable failure’ to follow the Code.
The new, simplified code says that ‘where the employee is found guilty of misconduct or to be performing poorly they should be given a written warning’ in the first instance. This appears to bypass the widespread industrial practice of issuing formal verbal warnings for an initial act of misconduct or inadequate performance. It will be interesting to see to what extent industrial practice alters to reflect the Code in the future.
There is also less emphasis in the new code on informal resolution of disciplinary and grievance issues and general advice on good practice, in favour of setting out clearly the steps of the procedures and concentrating on the appropriate principles employers should following in dealing with disciplinary matters.
This is not surprising as the whole Code is six pages long and it is intended to replace the very extensive statutory procedures. However ACAS will also produce guidance to go with the Code which will contain model discipline and grievance procedures and it may be that much of the advice that was in the old Code will be in the new guidance. ACAS stated in the announcement about the draft Code that the main request they had received about the new code was that it should be short. It certainly achieves that aim!