Leader magazineASCL - Association of School and College Leaders

New code for discipline and grievance

The drastic change to discipline and grievance procedures that went live in April will take some time to penetrate the system, as proceedings that started before 6 April will have to run to completion under the old procedures. This particularly applies to grievances and the calculation is that some grievances will still be raised under the old procedure until October. It will be extremely important to ensure that advice is sought whenever a complaint that may be a grievance is raised.

Despite the government's intention to return to a simpler world over grievances and discipline, the lawyers are already sharpening their quills. The main issue appears to be the possibility that unless the ACAS Code of Practice is followed, with all of its 45 paragraphs, any award can be adjusted. This contrasts vividly with the previous system which only required adherence to the 'three steps' in order to be secure.

One of the most crucial issues is the requirement in the accompanying guidance for those raising grievances to have made a genuine effort to resolve them. This may have a chilling effect on vexatious grievances, but it will certainly be the subject of litigation.

Similarly, the suggestion in the code that disciplinary processes only 'may' be suspended if a grievance is simultaneously brought, looks like offering opportunities. Also, but not finally, there is a clause that prevents 'unreasonable delay' by either side. Union reps who cannot fit in a hearing may be letting down their members.

ASCL members will need their human resource advisers even more than before as they set out to navigate these new and interesting waters.

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