LRD Booklets September 2015

Disciplinary and grievance procedures - a practical guide for trade union reps



[pages 4-5]

This LRD booklet is intended to provide practical advice and support for union reps or members who are facing a disciplinary or considering whether to lodge a grievance. 

The work of union reps in advising and representing members in formal hearings has never been more important, both on an individual and a collective level. 

At an individual level, what happens in internal disciplinary and grievance meetings is generally much more significant, in terms of giving members the best chance to keep their jobs or have their concerns addressed, than what takes place before an employment tribunal. Only a tiny minority of workers’ complaints ever reach an employment tribunal, and of those that do, only a small number — just 1% of successful claims — result in reinstatement or re-engagement. The introduction of tribunal fees in July 2013 has made a very bad situation even worse. 

If a member decides to bring a tribunal claim, the outcome will be shaped or determined largely by the way in which disciplinary or grievance proceedings have been conducted — the arguments put, the evidence collected or challenged, and decisions taken, for example, whether or not to appeal. 

Union reps also play an important wider role, making sure employers follow policies openly, consistently and fairly, and helping to develop improvements when the disciplinary or grievance process itself highlights problems.

On a collective level, the visible reassurance and support offered by union reps to members facing formal discipline or grievance meetings can help to organise and build union presence, making it easier to produce effective collective solutions for the benefit of all members. In a non-unionised workplace, the visibility of reps in their representation role can also help achieve recognition by encouraging new membership.

Most trade unions offer their members a legal advice service and any member or rep contemplating taking a legal case should contact their union first. In some unions, tribunal cases will be handled internally at district, regional or even head office level. This booklet does not contain individual legal advice and must not be relied on as such. 

The booklet is divided into 14 short Chapters:

• Chapter 1 sets out a summary of the key provisions of the 2009 Acas Code of Practice on Discipline and Grievance;

• Chapter 2 contains practical guidance on negotiating disciplinary procedures;

• Chapter 3 looks at the difference between informal and formal procedures;

• Chapter 4 contains practical guidance on supporting members during an investigation, including rules on surveillance evidence and anonymous evidence;

• Chapter 5 summarises the rules governing suspensions;

• Chapter 6 contains practical guidance on getting ready for the hearing;

• Chapter 7 deals with practical arrangements for the conduct of the disciplinary hearing and summarises some key arguments available to reps;

• Chapter 8 explains and updates the law on the right to be accompanied;

• Chapter 9 looks at disciplinary penalties and possible arguments to use in mitigation;

• Chapter 10 concerns the appeal process;

• Chapter 11 looks at grievance procedures;

• Chapter 12 looks at organising around grievances and disciplinary issues;

• Chapter 13 summarises the joint TUC/Acas guidance for reps on mediation; 

• Chapter 14 looks briefly at discipline and grievance issues in the context of TUPE transfers; and

• Chapter 15 looks briefly at how references can be affected by disciplinary and grievance processes.

The booklet provides relevant examples from tribunal decisions (case law) throughout.