Disciplinary and dismissal procedures

Topic Index
Coverage of the Code
Practical steps
Overlapping disciplinary and grievance issues
Disciplinary policies and procedures



  • The ACAS Code of Practice on Disciplinary and Grievance Procedures covers the disciplining and dismissal of employees.
  • The main elements of the Code are that:
    • employers and employees should raise issues promptly, deal with issues without unreasonable delay and act consistently
    • employers should carry out necessary investigations to establish the facts of the case
    • employers should inform the employees of the problem and allow them to put their case before any decisions are made
    • employers should allow employees to be accompanied at formal disciplinary meetings
    • employers should allow employees to appeal any formal decisions
  • Although the Code is not legally binding, a tribunal can increase or reduce compensation by up to 25% if either the employee or employer unreasonably fails to follow it.
  • A failure to comply with the Code does not, on its own, make an employer liable but will be taken into account by a tribunal when it assesses whether an employer has acted fairly.
  • The ACAS Guide, which accompanies the Code, is much longer and gives 'best practice' advice. While a tribunal is not legally required to take account of the Guide, in practice it is likely to be influential.
  • Tribunals will take into account the size and resources of the employer and will recognise that, in some cases, it will not be practicable for all employers to take all of the steps recommended in the Code.
  • A dismissal will be held to be unfair if the employer fails to follow a fair procedure, even if that failure has made no difference to the outcome and it would still have dismissed had it followed a fair procedure. Therefore employers must ensure that they act reasonably and dismissals are carried out according to a generally fair procedure.
  • However, although a dismissal will be held to be unfair if a fair procedure is not followed, the amount of compensation may be reduced to reflect the chance that the employer would have dismissed the employee in any event, even if it had followed a fair procedure (known as the Polkey reduction)....
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