Employment Law Changes

New Discipline and Grievance Complaints Procedures

Employment law is about to undergo quite a radical change, with an amendment to the existing Employment Act 2002 (Dispute Resolution) Regulations 2004 (SI 2004/752) which are currently in force. This law is in place to establish statutory procedures that must be followed if and when a grievance complaint is raised by an employee to an employer.

From 6 April 2009, the above statutory provisions are going to be repealed, to be replaced by a non-statutory ACAS (Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service) guide which will provide details on good practice advice when dealing with these types of situations. These amendments are being introduced through the Employment Act 2008. This will mean a huge shift of emphasis on what ACAS will be able to do in such circumstances. In readiness for this repeal and in an effort to prevent so many proceedings from reaching the employment tribunal stage, ACAS has prepared a number of documents that will help to keep people better informed of this amendment to the law, and explain specifically how ACAS will be able to assist in workplace disputes.

The ACAS website contains the full guide for dealing with discipline and grievances in the workplace, plus introductory notes that will provide people with a much better understanding. It may be a good idea to advise employers to prepare themselves for this change beforehand, as by researching these details now they will be completely ready to deal with any such issues if they were to arise on or after 6 April 2009.

Up until the 5th April the existing statutory dispute resolution regulations will remain in place. These will be applicable for any grievance that is raised right up to the 5th April itself. The ACAS guide will apply only to any disputes that may come to light on 6 April 2009 or after.

It is difficult to work out the reason for this amendment to the law, but it may be likely that the government is looking to take advantage of ACAS much more, in an endeavour to prevent such a large number of cases from reaching the employment tribunal stage. ACAS firmly believes that “prevention is better than a cure”, therefore this would probably help us to appreciate such a swing towards them.

From 6 April 2009 on, employers will be expected to comply with the new ACAS guide on disciplinary and grievance procedures as much as possible. It is worth pointing out at this stage that if an employee were able to prove in an employment tribunal that an employer had unreasonably failed to adhere to this guide, the employee may be eligible for an increase in compensation of up to 25%.

Disciplinary and grievance procedures cover a large proportion of the work that may be handled in employment law terms. With this in mind, it will be interesting to see how the new laws are accepted by employers and employees alike and whether or not ACAS will be able to assist by mediating in such workplace issues and preventing so many cases from reaching the tribunal stage. No doubt time will tell on this issue!