Legislation overview

The most important provisions governing discipline and grievances at work are to be found in:

  • the Employment Act 2008 and
  • the Employment Tribunals (Constitution and Rules of Procedure) (Amendment) Regulations 2008.

As explained in the related Q&As, the Acas Code of practice on disciplinary and grievance procedures (Acas Code) is also of crucial importance. See the related Q&A What must an employer do to follow the Acas code of practice on disciplinary and grievance procedures?

Numerous other pieces of legislation cross refer to discipline and grievance issues. Some important examples include the:

  • Employment Rights Act 1996 as amended
  • Employment Rights Dispute Resolution Act 1998
  • Employment Relations Act 1999
  • Employment Rights Act 2004
  • Code of Practice (Disciplinary and Grievance Procedures) Order 2015 (SI 2015/649). 

Other crucial points to note on dispute resolution include the following:

  • Employers and employees should do all that they can to resolve disciplinary and grievance issues themselves and should consider using a third party (for example a mediator or an arbitrator) to help resolve the problem, ending up in an employment tribunal as a very last resort. There is a requirement for Acas early conciliation in most cases.
  • The rule laid down in the case of Polkey v. A. E. Dayton Services Ltd [1988] ICR 142, HL still applies to cases where a dismissal may be technically unfair on procedural grounds. In such cases if the correct procedures had been followed the dismissal may eventually have taken place anyway. In such cases the tribunal can reduce or eliminate the compensatory award to reflect the fact that the dismissal would have gone ahead anyway.

The Employment Act 2008 is not applicable to Northern Ireland. The nibusinessinfo.co.uk website provides a range of resources on disciplinary, grievance and dismissal procedures and the Labour Relations Agency website provides sample letters and flowcharts.

Q: What regime should an employer follow in a disciplinary or grievance situation?

Q: What must an employer do to follow the Acas code of practice on disciplinary and grievance procedures?

Q: What happens if the Acas code of practice on disciplinary and grievance procedures is not followed?

Q: What should a dismissal, disciplinary and grievance policy and procedure contain?

Q: Can an employer simply dismiss an employee in cases of gross misconduct?

Q: Which communications should an employer treat as a grievance?

Q: What is the employer's position if an employee fails to attend the meeting fixed by an employer to consider a disciplinary or grievance issue?

Q: What information should an employer give to an employee before the disciplinary or grievance meeting?

Q: What is the role of witnesses and witness statements at a disciplinary or grievance meeting?

Q: Can an employer or employee insist that there is an electronic recording of the meetings in disciplinary and grievance procedures?

Q: What is the role of the companion at the meetings in disciplinary and grievance procedures?

Q: Should a disciplinary decision be made by an employee’s manager, a more senior manager or by HR?

Q: Does a disciplinary procedure have to be followed before issuing oral or written warnings to an employee or suspending them on full pay?

Q: If an employer dismisses an employee for an act of gross misconduct and the employee subsequently proves their innocence will the employee automatically succeed in an unfair dismissal claim?

Q: Can an employer take disciplinary action against several employees when they cannot prove which employee committed the conduct in question?

Q: How should an employer deal with a complaint of bullying?

Q: Can employers investigate cases of bullying and harassment in the workplace on the basis of anonymous witness evidence?

Q: How far can an employer take into account misconduct that occurs off-duty when contemplating disciplinary action?

Q: How important is it to treat employees consistently when dealing with disciplinary and grievance matters?

Q: Are there any future developments expected in the area of disciplinary procedures and grievance procedures?

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