Acas revises code on dispute procedures

Arbitration and conciliation service Acas is revising its code of practice
on disciplinary and grievance procedures in preparation for new statutory
dispute procedures.

The code is used by employment tribunals in making compensation decisions in
cases of alleged unfair dismissal.

Failure to follow statutory procedures can result in any compensation award
being increased or reduced (depending on which party is at fault) by between 10
per cent and 50 per cent.

Ben Willmott, employee relations adviser at the Chartered Institute of
Personnel and Development, said the new code would do a good job in helping
employers navigate their way through dispute procedures.

However, he warned that some employers, particularly smaller firms, would
still find the final procedures confusing and said there were still "a few
grey areas".

He said definitions of ‘unreasonable’ behaviour and ‘harassment’ within the
regulations were very broad and could be open to debate.

"It’s important for employers to follow the procedures through, but
there may be problems and it will certainly be a steep learning curve,"
said Willmott.

Rita Donaghy, Acas chair, said the service had taken the opportunity to make
sure its good practice guidance is clear, practical and reflects today’s

"We have made the difference between misconduct and poor performance
clearer. In the case of poor performance we have used the concept of a plan to
improve performance as a more appropriate approach."

Last year there were 94,453 applications to employment tribunals, of which
41,611 concerned allegations of unfair dismissal. More than three quarters (77
per cent) of those complaints went no further than the Acas conciliation stage.

The revised code is available online.

By Mike Berry

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