How the parties approach a grievance process will very much dictate the outcome. It is important for both parties to try to avoid an antagonistic approach and keep an open mind. While the employee will have started the process because they are feeling aggrieved, it is important for the employer to respond appropriately in order that the situation does not escalate, resulting in the employee become further aggrieved. Equally, an employee should engage in the grievance process with an open mind and be willing to listen to their employer’s point of view.
The ACAS Code is intended to provide practical guidance to employers and employees and sets out “the standard of reasonable behaviour” for both parties when an employee has a grievance that cannot be resolved informally. Although the obligations placed on employees are minimal, it is still important for them and their representatives to have regard to the Code if they wish to raise a formal grievance with their employer.
The ACAS Code is supplemented by the Non-statutory ACAS guide. This has no statutory effect, need not be taken into account by tribunals and parties cannot be penalised for failing to follow it. However it does provide practical guidance on the handling of grievance matters, based on good industrial relations practice and the case law principles of fairness.
Failure to follow any part of the ACAS Code does not of itself make an employer liable to proceedings. However, employment tribunals must take the ACAS Code into account where relevant when considering whether an employer has acted reasonably or not. Furthermore, if the employee subsequently brings certain successful claims, the tribunal can adjust the amount of compensation by up to 25% either way if the employer or the employee has unreasonably failed to comply with the ACAS Code.