New ACAS code: what you need to know

4 March 2009

We look at what reps need to know about the new procedures for disciplinaries and grievances that come into force next month.

As previously reported in Activate, from 6 April a new ACAS code will replace the current statutory disciplinary and grievance procedures.

Now we look at the impact for activists and reps, and provide some links to resources for more information.

Key points for reps

Employers should not be trying to weaken procedures. They can hold negotiations with us to check the procedures will comply with the new legislation and to improve them if necessary.

Contact Imogen Radford in our research department on or 020 7801 2639 for advice and to let us know what your employer is doing.

There are transitional arrangements which are explained on the Department for Business website.

The current regime will apply to cases where the trigger – the disciplinary letter or the issue about which there is a grievance – occurs before 6 April.

The new procedures apply when this trigger is on or after 6 April.

Under the new procedures the three-month minus one day time limit will apply in almost all cases, and there will no longer be an extension to follow internal procedures.

Training will be available soon – watch out for details in your region. More guidance will also be available from the TUC shortly.

What is changing?

The current statutory procedures will be repealed by the new ACAS code from 6 April. The draft code is available on the ACAS website.

Transitional procedures for cases arising before 6 April are available on the BERR website.

The new code provides basic practical guidance to employers, employees and reps, and sets out principles for handling disciplinary and grievance situations in the workplace.

Employers are not obliged to follow the code, but tribunals will take it into account and will be able to adjust any awards by up to 25% if an employer or employee unreasonably fails to follow any provision.

There will be a non-statutory ACAS guide providing more detailed good practice advice. But employment tribunals do not have to take account of the guidance booklet.

A three-month minus one day time limit will be usual in almost all cases, and there will no longer be an extension to follow internal procedures.

The new code will cover all employees but not workers, and all dispute situations except the ending of a fixed-term contract or redundancy.

What is the impact?

  • Reps will need to be aware that keeping a close eye on time limits is even more essential than before
  • Keeping records is more important than ever
  • Workplace procedures will play a more important role in resolving disputes
  • Employers should not be weakening workplace procedures, and they should be checked to see if they comply, or need strengthening
  • Employers should negotiate or consult on this with the union
  • There is no change to the right to be accompanied
  • The enhanced ACAS helpline and the new ACAS service might be helpful in resolving issues before putting in employment tribunal claims, but there is no requirement to use them.

Who to contact

If your employer is proposing changes to your grievance and disciplinary procedures contact Imogen Radford in our research department on or 020 7801 2639.

In addition to the new code, ACAS is enhancing its helpline, 08457 474747, which will be open from 8am to 8pm, Mondays to Fridays and 9am to 1pm on Saturdays

There will also be a new ACAS pre-claims conciliation service, available free through the helpline.

Information and resources

Our learning, legal and research staff are developing training for reps and negotiators on using the new code. More information about courses in the regions will be available soon.

The draft ACAS code of practice is available on the ACAS website and the final version will be available when approved.

There is also a summary of the new procedures, including information about the helpline.

Guidance on the new dispute resolution procedures, including transitional arrangements are available on the BERR website.

The Q&A brief which appeared in the February edition of Activate was also published online.

Contact Imogen Radford if you would like hard copies or PDF versions of this information or any of the guidance:

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