ACAS Code of Practice on Disciplinary and Grievance Procedures



The ACAS code of practice includes important principles to maintain discipline and handle the grievances of employees in a workplace. The codes provide assistance to both the employers and the employees in guiding themselves for handling grievances in general as well as individual situations. This essay focuses on natures and functions of the procedures of disciplines, analysis of whether there is any difference between the 2004 and 2009 ACAS codes of discipline and the theoretical considerations governing them. It also takes into considerations the factors responsible for the changes in the 2009 code.

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Discipline has always been significant in order to get success in personal as well professional life. It has been a prerequisite in order to attain maximum productivity. It changes the attitude of the employees in the workplace. Discipline needs to be reformative and not punitive. The three things of discipline are self-discipline, punishment and orderly behavior of individuals.

Discipline helps a person in every sphere of life.  The rules of discipline help the employees in an organization to orderly maintain relations between them and promote fair and consistent treatment to all the individuals (ACAS, 2004). Disciplinary actions are sometimes performed out of legal obligations in various circumstances. The rules of discipline help the employers to bind the employees under certain restrictions and avoid any sort of misconduct. Discipline helps to reinforce the control of managers and proper administration of the workforce (Wilton, 2016).

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Discipline acts as an obligation of relationship between the employers and the employees. Discipline is encouraged by the employers by forcing the employees to comply with the standards of the organizations. The disciplinary actions are treated as processes to help the employees in better performance. The disciplinary actions are of two types, preventive and corrective disciplines. The preventive disciplinary actions are taken to help the employees to follow the standards. The rules are generally communicated to the employees, trainings are conducted and counselling of employees are done if required. The corrective disciplinary actions are taken to charge penalty to the employees who have been undisciplined. These penalties may include giving just warnings or suspension in some cases. On the other hand, disciplinary actions should have the following features:

  • Immediate: The disciplinary action should be taken immediately by the employer and penalty for the violation of ACAS codes of conduct should be enacted as early as possible.
  • Consistent: There should be a consistency in a good disciplinary system so that people, violating the disciplinary rules of the organization can be severely punished.
  • Impersonal: The employers should be impersonal in making a justice about disciplinary actions and not giving prominence to the personal matters. Prior warning and notice: A sound disciplinary system should give chance to the employees who have flouted the rules of discipline by giving them prior warnings.

Nature and function of disciplinary procedure ACAS 2004 and 2015 codes

The 2004 code of discipline were made to improve the dispute among the employees in the workplace. The procedures of the 2004 codes aimed at encouraging the employees as well as the employers in resolving the disputes in the workplace. It tried to evade the need for an Employment Tribunal at that point of time. There had been a need for options in order to simplify and enrich the effective dispute resolution framework in the organization. The Gibbons Review inferred that the prescriptive resolution in 2004 codes of discipline were not at all successful and were very complex which lead to the development of much simpler and flexible codes to avoid any disputes in the workplace (Gibbons, 2007). This development was aimed at maintaining discipline both within as well as outside the workplace. This would enable in providing a more effective service of Employment Tribunal. ACAS played a significant part in implementing the changes in 2004 codes based on the Gibbons Review. These changes were introduced in 2009 codes of discipline.

The 2009 ASAC statutory codes of practice on actions regarding disciplines replaced the 3-step procedures of 2004 codes. The 3-step process was very complicated and over prescriptive. A lot of undesired consequences due to the compliance of the 2004 codes were reported (Gibbons, 2007). The 2009 codes is not applied to the redundancy dismissals and not renewing the fixed term contracts. The 2015 codes are much simpler and easy to comply than that of the 2004. The 2015 codes provide more flexibility for sanctioning in certain specific situations and long period of ineligibility for cheats. The codes provide support for the investigations and use of intelligence to fight against doping (ACAS, 2015).  The amendments helped to reach to the Athlete Support Personnel, getting involved in doping.

Theoretical consideration

There are two models regarding the discipline which needs to be restored at the work place. These are punitive and corrective.

Punitive model

This model is associated with the will of implementing hard management and exercises the prerogatives having least interference from the trade unions without giving much importance to the outside agencies or other laws governing them (Fenley, 1998). This model has the objective of deterring the employees of an organization from committing any type of offences.  Employees are forced to obey the rules due to the fear of punishment. The punitive approach has its uniqueness because of its authoritarian nature and results in arbitrary treatment. It does not educate the employees about the disciplinary policies. Justice of the organizational management is instant and final in this approach and suspension of the employees will occur without any warnings.

Corrective model

The key objective of the corrective model is to nurture self-discipline. This includes the part of the employer in correcting an employee rather than just punishing them. The usefulness of the corrective model as per the ACAS code of disciplinary practice states that these procedures should not be regarded as ways of imposition of the sanctions but they should be utilized in emphasizing and encouraging developments in the conduct of individuals. The employees need to know the rules very well and the penalties should be designed to apply in a fair and consistent manner. The principles of natural justice are the integral part of this approach (Fenley, 1998). In this approach, the employees are given warnings before they are punished. This approach takes into consideration the fact that whether the rules have relation with the efficient operation of the company. The employer adopting this approach will sympathetically inspect the extent of rule violation.

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Change and implications about 2009 code

These changes have urged the employees as well as the employers to behave in a consistent manner. It also helps the employers to carry out investigations regarding any cases in establishment of the facts. There has always been a chance for the employers in allowing the employees to accompany them for any disciplinary meetings. The changes have helped the Tribunal to reduce the reward of any employee who are unable to follow the disciplinary rules.

There were various reasons for the changes in the 2009 code of discipline. No simplified rules have been stated on the time limits for defending the claims. Standard statutory procedures to deal with implementation of disciplines and grievances have been abolished in the 2015 codes. There was no transparency in the codes of 2009 which required urgent changes. The language was not consistent in the 2009 codes and there was a need to make it more consistent.

The 2009 codes of discipline were not clear enough which provided lot of problems to the employers. The employers were facing problems in bringing the employees to justice who did not comply with the rules.

Evidence in work experiences

Discipline is very important in the workplace. It acts as means through which the supervisory people try to rectify the behavioral deficiencies and force the employees to comply with the rules of the company. If a behavior is unacceptable in the workplace or an employee gets involved in any misconduct, that becomes intolerable, the company management can use the disciplinary codes to correct their behavior. The organizations perceive the absenteeism of the employees as a type of problem which they try to manage through the intervention of the line managers and the consideration of negotiated discipline (Dunn and Wilkinson, 2002). It becomes significant to carry out investigations about the disciplinary issues in the workplace without any delay. Some disciplinary cases require meetings of the employers with the employees before taking any stringent actions. Different people in an organization carry out investigations at different points of time. The employees are informed about their misconduct in writing which contains adequate information about their bad performance. The organizations help the employees with better work-life balance by maintaining discipline in the workplace (Dickens, 2005).

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Absence management

Absence of employees in the workplace can be for various reasons and can last from days to years. Most of the companies are aware of the cost incurred because of the absence of employees due to sickness. These costs include statutory sick pay, occupational sick pay, paying for temporary cover as well as for overtime. Absence of the employees has indirect effects on themselves such as it lowers their morale, leading to more mistakes and lowers the productivity of the company (Dunn and Wilkinson, 2002). The employees need to cover up the work for the absentees which increase their workloads and indirectly bring down their morale. The mistakes of the employees can create delays in the work.

The employers need to look into the matter to increase the attendance of the employees. Return-to-work interviews are frequently conducted by the employers to reduce absenteeism. Many companies tend to offer attendance incentives to encourage the employees in attaining higher levels of attendance and avoid unnecessary absence in the workplace. The companies are encouraging the employees to adopt healthy lifestyles that can act as a reward for the absentees. Many organizations are providing benefits to the employees such as gym facilities to keep the employees healthy. Training is also a need for the employers and also for the employees to cope up with stresses and health problems. The companies are also arranging different programs like employee assistance programs which give support to the employees to cope up with issues regarding the personal and professional life.

The management should determine the reasons why the employees were not present in the work. The employer must analyze the reason and if it is found unacceptable, the employees can be brought to justice under the disciplinary codes of ACAS.

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Role of trade union

The trade unions have taken significant roles in shaping the working lives of the people. The trade union has accepted the introduction of the universal system to deal with the disciplinary issues in the workplace, in particular to the small businesses (Hepple and Morris, 2002). This can effectively reduce the claims of the tribunals which are very expensive and stressful. The members of the trade unions have always preferred for a statutory procedure for all the workers including the employees. The trade unions have serious concerns about two significant issues in the codes of conduct. The first one is the incorporation of the procedures in the ACAS codes in the contracts of the employees which may reduce their effect and help some of the employers to use them. They feel that those disputes should be taken to the tribunal for justice. The labor unions have faced the reality that there has been a growing trend among the employers to use mechanisms not relating to the union in order to communicate with the employees. The Employment Relations Act 1999 and Regulations 2010 gave some sort of rights to the trade union members where the companies can collect information about them to help the employment agencies and employers in making discrimination among the members with respect to recruitment (Painter and Holmes, 2015).


Issues regarding disciplines in most of the organizations are handled in such a manner that creates conflicts within the organization itself. Majority of the employers take instant decisions regarding the flouting of disciplinary rules by the employees and give punishment to them which affect the productivity of the company. The essay deals with the differences between the codes of ACAS 2004 and 2015 and whether the 2015 codes are simpler and less prescriptive. The functions, features and theoretical considerations regarding discipline have been taken into considerations here. The role of trade union in the work place for maintaining discipline and the various changes in the 2015 codes have been discussed.  The 2015 codes have become simpler and easy to understand by the employers to maintain discipline in the workplace.

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  1. ACAS, 2004.  Code of Practice on Disciplinary and Grievance Procedures. [online] Available at: < > [Accessed 6 March 2017].
  2. ACAS, 2015. Code of Practice on Disciplinary and Grievance Procedures. [online] Available at: < > [Accessed 7 March 2017].
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