Discipline and grievance - Acas Code of Practice

What Is The Code of Practice?

The Acas Code of Practice on disciplinary and grievance procedures gives practical guidance for handling these issues in the workplace. Failure to follow the Code doesn't make a person or organisation liable to proceedings, however, an employment tribunal will take it into account when considering relevant cases.

Key Code of Practice points

  • Many potential disciplinary and grievance issues can be resolved informally.
  • Employment Tribunals are legally required to take the Acas Code of Practice into account when considering relevant cases.
  • Tribunal can adjust any awards made in relevant cases by up to 25 per cent for unreasonable failure to comply with any provisions of the code.
  • Employers and employees should always look to resolve disciplinary and grievance issues in the workplace.
  • A non-statutory guide (Discipline and grievances at work: The Acas guide) provides additional information on handling discipline and grievance solutions in the workplace.

View or download the latest pdf icon Acas Code of Practice on Discipline and Grievance [363kb].

You can also download pdf icon Discipline and grievances at work: The Acas guide [840kb] or our guidance on pdf icon Conducting workplace investigations [378kb].

Note to readers of code

Employers will wish to be aware of an Employment Appeal Tribunal judgement in the case of Talon Engineering Ltd v Smith which has a bearing on requests to postpone a disciplinary hearing to accommodate a worker's companion (see para 16 of Code). The law on the right of accompaniment provides that if a companion cannot attend on the date originally set a worker can suggest an alternative time and date so long as it is reasonable and it is not more than five working days after the original date. In the light of the Talon case employers may, however, wish to allow more time than this for a re-arranged meeting, particularly in cases that might result in dismissal. Where there is a request to postpone a hearing for more than five days because a trade union representative or other companion is not available, it may be fair to allow the postponement if it does not cause unreasonable delay. The employer should consider the facts and decide what is fair and reasonable in the circumstances.

Many potential disciplinary or grievance issues can often be resolved informally. Cases of minor misconduct or unsatisfactory performance are usually best dealt with informally. A quiet word is often all that is required to improve an employee's conduct or performance.

The Acas Code of Practice sets out the basic requirements of fairness that will be applicable in most cases; it provides the standard of reasonable behaviour for most cases. The Code will help employers, employees and representatives deal with disciplinary and grievance issues in the workplace.

Where some form of formal action is needed, what action is reasonable or justified will depend on all the circumstances of the particular case. Employers should deal with issues promptly, fairly and consistently. Investigations should be carried out to gather and establish all the facts of the case.

To supplement the guidance contained in its Code of Practice, Acas has produced a non-statutory guide (Discipline and grievances at work: The Acas guide) which provides additional information on handling discipline and grievance solutions in the workplace.

This revised Code came into force on 11 March 2015, the revisions were made following a judgement by the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) which clarified the rules on making a request to be accompanied at disciplinary or grievance hearings.

The changes relate specifically to the right of accompaniment at disciplinary and grievance hearings, no other part of the Code has been revised.

Further Acas support on discipline and grievance

Acas offers training on discipline and grievance which provides delegates with the skills and knowledge to manage and conduct discipline and grievance procedures in the workplace.

View and book a training course near you. We can also tailor this training to meet your organisation's needs and deliver it at your workplace.

For free e-learning on discipline and grievance, visit Acas Learning OnLine.

If your organisation is experiencing a specific discipline and grievance issue, our specialists can help diagnose the cause and tailor practical solutions. To find out more: