Following the repeal in 2009 of the statutory procedure for dispute resolution in the workplace, Acas has published research evaluating the effectiveness of its replacement code on disciplinary and grievance procedures.

Acas commissioned the National Centre for Social Research to conduct qualitative interviews with 36 employers, employees and their representatives to explore how well the new code is understood and its impact on disciplinary and grievance procedures.

The following are the key findings:

  • In terms of awareness of the code, HR staff and employee representatives were generally more knowledgeable than line managers. Employee representatives reported that some employers had never heard of it.
  • Knowledge of the aims and purpose of the code also varied across participant groups, with line managers and employees being less knowledgeable than HR and employee representatives.
  • Generally, participants showed a good level of understanding that the code should be used when revising organisational policies and handling cases, although its legal status was less well understood.
  • The Code was having an impact on organisational policies and procedures by encouraging early resolution of complaints, clarifying, simplifying and providing guidance on existing policies as well as encouraging revisions to specific aspects of existing policies.
  • Beneficial changes to organisational policies and procedures were reflected in more positive handling of cases and in faster resolution of issues. However, it was felt to have had a negative impact on case handling in workplaces where the employer used the flexibility under the code to ‘weaken’ the employee position.
  • The code has contributed to a decrease in the number of disciplinary and grievance cases because of its emphasis on earlier resolution of complaints before they got to the stage of a formal grievance or disciplinary procedure.
  • Lay representatives and particularly full-time officers reported that more complex and serious cases were landing on their desks, probably because more straightforward cases were being resolved without their involvement.
  • In workplaces where using the code had resulted in more cases being resolved early, participants anticipated there would be a concurrent decrease in the number of Tribunal claims. When cases did reach Tribunal, participants anticipated that the code would assist employers to gain a fairer outcome.

Please click this link to download a copy of the “Evaluation of the Acas Code of Practice on Disciplinary and Grievance Procedures".