Employers – Ignoring the Acas Code is Like Shooting Yourself in the Foot


Ignoring the Acas Code on Disciplinary and Grievance Procedures is, in employment law terms, equivalent to shooting yourself in the foot. The point was made by an Employment Tribunal (ET) in the case of a payroll clerk who was afforded no procedural safeguards before his boss sacked him on the spot.

A director of the company for which the man worked accused him of throwing down some files on the floor. He denied the allegation but the director informed him that, if he was going to behave like that, he could take his things and go and find another job. The director sent him an email the following day, confirming his dismissal on grounds of alleged gross misconduct.

After the man launched ET proceedings, the director asserted that his dismissal was the culmination of various forms of misconduct – including rudeness to customers, poor timekeeping and swearing at a colleague – in which he had engaged for at least two years. The incident involving the files was, he said, the final straw.

Ruling on the matter, the ET found that the director had spoken to him once after he referred to a customer as stupid but had otherwise taken no action in respect of his past behaviour. That indicated that he did not consider his conduct unacceptable or a matter warranting dismissal. He genuinely believed that the man had thrown down the files and that this constituted an act of misconduct. There having been no investigation, however, that belief was not held on reasonable grounds.

The director was aware of the Acas Code but the ET found that he had ignored it. He did not follow it because he did not want to. The man had received no previous written warnings and he was not afforded an appeal hearing. He had no opportunity to defend himself and no reasonable employer would have dismissed him without even speaking to him about what he was alleged to have done wrong.

Given his 10 years’ service with the company, his dismissal in response to the files incident was not in any event a sanction within the range of reasonable responses open to a reasonable employer. The ET upheld the man’s complaints of unfair and wrongful dismissal and awarded him a total of £10,384 in compensation.

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