How far do the 2008/2009 changes in the ACAS Code of Practice on Discipline and Grievances help managers and employees to ensure fair and consistent standards at work? Discuss.
HRM- 20015 RE-ASSESSMENT MANAGING HUMAN RESOURCES
How far do the 2008/2009 changes in the ACAS Code of Practice on Discipline and Grievances help managers and employees to ensure fair and consistent standards at work? Discuss with reference to the purpose of discipline in employment, nature and function of disciplinary procedures, the available research-based evidence and the changes made in the 2008/2009 to the ACAS code.
Over the years, there have been many changes to the ACAS Codes of Practice on discipline and grievances procedures at the work place to ensure fair and consistent standards at work. The changes are used to improve the managerial privilege at the workplace. This essay will discuss on how the changes helped managers and employees to ensure fair and consistent standards at work.
Basically, the term discipline is mostly operated as a tool to control and shape employees’ behaviour (Clancy and Seifert, 2000). This ACAS code of Practice is designed to help employers, employees and their representatives deal with disciplinary and grievances situations in the workplace (ACAS 2009, Para 1). Fairness and transparency are promoted by developing and using rules and procedures for handling disciplinary and grievances procedures (ACAS 2009, para 2). Disciplinary actions are made by employers when misconducts arise or employees’ poorly performing at work, for example of misconduct or poor performance; punctuality or productivity at work. If employees tend to continuously arrive late to work or productivity is low then disciplinary actions will take place for improvement.
In the matter of disciplinary and grievances procedures, the procedures entails the establishment of disciplinary rules and regulations for good behaviour and performance, then when rules of discipline are broken, sanctions or punishments are established which are the consequences for not obeying the rules, then breaches have to be identified and dealt with by applying sanctions or disciplinary actions where appropriate.
Edwards (2000: 326-7) cites Gouldner’s (1954) identification of three types of bureaucratic rule as means of understanding disciplinary rules in practice ‘Mock’ bureaucracy rules ignored by all, for instance; no-smoking. ‘Representative’ bureaucracy; exemplified by safety rules which were enforced and obeyed. ‘Punishment-centred’ bureaucracy rules enforced by one party over another, e.g. over breach and absenteeism, managers try to enforce rules rigidly, workers resent rules.
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Most managers think that punishments will result in improvement of behaviour (Rollinson et al, 1997) to employees. Formal procedures legitimize managerial prerogative hence strengthening it. In addition, there are managers who still prefer informal dealings especially in the case of absenteeism.
Formally stating maximum days of absences tolerable may encourage employees to perform at a minimum level of standard, hence formal procedures does not always necessarily yield the desired behaviour (Dunn and Wilkinson, 2002). These formal procedures act as a ‘vehicle to voice out concerns’ and promote fairness when handling conflicts (Kersley et al, 2011).
Discipline procedures have their own theoretical considerations. It has been considered by Edwards, 2000, which discipline relates to ‘the identifiable standards for the behaviour and performance of employees that are produced in organisations and the sanctions that may be deployed for their breach (Edwards, 2000: 319).
Whenever a disciplinary or grievance process is being followed, it is important to deal with issues fairly, elements involved are issues should be raised and dealt with promptly and try to avoid unreasonable delays, employers and employees should act consistently in a consistent manner, employers should carry out any necessary investigations and inform employees of the basis of the problems that arise and give opportunity to put the employee’s case forward, in terms of meetings for disciplinary matters, employers should allow employees to be accompanied at any formal disciplinary meetings and are allowed to make an appeal against any decisions made (ACAS 2009, Para 4).
In addition, this is not the case in small scale companies, procedures are often used to quicken the dismissal or to protect against claim of unfair dismissal (Goodman et al, 1998) by employers or managers. For disciplinary procedures, there are 2 approaches.
The two approaches where discipline procedure may take action are namely corrective and punitive approach. Punitive approach distinguished by authoritarian basis and resulting arbitrary treatment and the corrective approach aims to foster self discipline where penalties are applied fairly and consistently and are predictable. This includes whether management prefers the harsh coercive approach or employment relations based on trust and commitment, for example, corrective approach (Fenley, 1998).
Reports from Gibbons (2007) stated that the regulations and procedures in ACAS Code of Practice 2004 lead to bureaucratization. Employers see the procedures as a lead up to employment tribunals rather than focusing on settling the issues (Gibbons, 2007, p24). The emphasized of written records also contribute to the cause of bureaucracy; parties involved are more concerned about the process rather than problem at hand. Based on these, changes are made in 2009 ACAS Code of Practice.
The findings of Gibbons review (2007) on the 2004 changes are inflexible, prescriptive regulation has been unsuccessful the measures to be used in the future should be much simpler and more flexible. The procedures have led to the use of formal processes to deal with problems that could have been dealt with informally.
One recommendation Gibbons (2007) made which is realized in the recent Code of Practice that the removal of statutory status of the dispute resolution. This will help employees to raise issues straight to employment tribunal without going through employers that might manipulate the situation (Gibbons, 2007, p27). This may also help to encourage both employers and employees to resolve conflicts internally. There is also a change in nature of discipline. The changes come as a result of the Dispute Resolution Review carried out by Sir Michael Gibbons who looked at how the current statutory three stage procedure for discipline and grievance issues was working in practice (). Briefly the stages are; statements of grounds for action, meeting held and then making an appeal ()
All changes in the code of practice are based on changes in the legislation. In the ACAS code of conduct 2000 included grievance procedures as well as to have the right to be accompanied in a disciplinary meeting. In the 2004 ACAS code of conduct introduced statutory procedures which had to be followed by employer to avoid auto negative tribunal rulings.
The changes made in the Code of Practice, 2004 ACAS Code of Practice makes it clear that procedures should not be viewed as negative sanctions and be punishment oriented, but should provide support for individuals to improve their conduct which is to provide a positive reinforcement of good behaviour (ACAS 2004 ,para 58). For example, if an employee is caught lack in productivity, advice and support through disciplinary actions should be given for improvement and better behaviour.
Another change made in 2009 ACAS Code of Practice is that the first warning is requested to be written (ACAS 2009 para 9). Verbal warnings used to be sufficient to warn employees about their mistakes as seen in cases in Rollinson et al (1997). Informal dealings are not fully addressed in the ACAS Code of Practice 2009. In 2009 ACAS Code of Practice, no advised length of time allocated before holding meetings. Problem of consistency between cases might arise from this as managers have the power to indicate which is better. Managers might take the advantage of this to punish employees.
Other changes made by the 2009 ACAS code of practice are that there are not list of essential features, no specific means of natural justice, no list of indicative gross misconduct cases and written records as proof are not emphasized.
Moreover, whether the changes made in 2009 ACAS Code of Practice strengthen managerial prerogative, it will depend on the behaviour of managers. The management style will define “the background and tone of disciplinary standard and action” (Goodman et al, 1998, p547).
This is apparent in the case of Rollinson’s et al where subjects feel that time delay is management’s way to make them anxious and ‘sweat it out’ (1997, p293). This is another example of managers exercising their power using coercive approach. Therefore, the failure of stating the time parameters gives flexibility to employers hence strengthening their prerogative.
A review of individual employment rights by, Hepple and Morris (2002:268), observed ‘the extent to which employers are complying with their contractual and statutory obligations depends on the presence of trade unions and collective representation’.
In conclusion, the changes in the ACAS Code of Practice 2008/2009 on discipline procedures to help managers and employees ensure fair and consistent standards at work is that it is designed to help employers, employees and their representative deal with disciplinary situations. Whenever a disciplinary or grievance procedure is being followed it is important to deal with issues fairly and accordingly. The changes made to the ACAS code of practice is that most of the 2004 ACAS code of practice are not used and are omitted. The 2008/2009 changes in the ACAS code of practice are more flexible due to no statutory procedures.
While some managers may take advantage of the flexibility of the procedures, some might still prefer to do it the right way which will, in return, improve employment relationships with employees as they need the workers for work to be completed, hence will help to ensure fairness and consistency at work between employers and employees respectively.
Approx: 1,485 Words (excluding references, bibliography, titles).
References and Bibliography
Clancy, M. and Seifert, R. (2000) Fairness at Work? The Disciplinary and Grievance Provisions of the 1999 Employment Relations Act, London: Institute of Employment Rights.
ACAS. (2009). ACAS 2009 CODE OF PRACTICE. Available: http://www.acas.org.uk/CHttpHandler.ashx?id=1041. Last accessed 1st Aug 2012
ACAS (2009) Code of Practice on Disciplinary and Grievance Procedures, London: ACAS (operative from April 2009)
Edwards P. (2005) ‘Discipline and Attendance: A Murky Aspect of People Management’, in Bach, S. (ed.) Managing Human Resources, Oxford: Blackwell
Dunn, C. and Wilkinson, A. (2002) ‘Wish You Were Here: Managing Absence’, Personnel Review, 31 (2), pp. 228-246.
Fenley, A. (1998) ‘Models, Styles and Metaphors: Understanding the Management of Discipline’, Employee Relations, 20 (4), pp. 349–364.
Gibbons, M. (2007). Better Dispute Resolution: A Review of Employment Dispute Resolution in Great Britain, London: DTI.
Goodman, J., Earnshaw, J., Marchington, M. and Harrison, R. (1998) ‘Unfair Dismissal Cases, Disciplinary Procedures, Recruitment Methods and Management Style: Case Study Evidence from Three Industrial Sectors’, Employee Relations, 20 (6), pp. 536–550.
Lanegraham Solicitors. 2008. Disciplinary issues, Grievances and Dismissals. [ONLINE] Available at: . [Accessed 02 August 12].
Rollinson, D., Handley, J., Hook, C. and Foot, M. (1997) ‘The Disciplinary Experience and Its Effects on Behaviour’, Work, Employment and Society, 11 (2), pp. 283–311.