UK: Are You Up To The Challenge Of The New ACAS Code?

Last Updated: 27 November 2009
Article by Graham Massie

There are many laudable aspects to the new Code - it takes us back to working with principled guidelines rather than rigid process rules; and it encourages, through the use of mediation, the restoration of common sense in trying to find a resolution to workplace grievances.

But will the Code alone really make that much difference?  We can welcome its new flexibility and pragmatic approach, but at the same time we should recognise that for many organisations workplace conflict reflects ingrained cultural habits rather than a simple absence of due process.  The real payback therefore will be achieved – for employers and employees alike – only if the application of the Code moves organisations away from grievance-orientated cultures and closer towards the effective dialogue approaches (across all areas of activity) that established mediation usage can engender.

We live in an age where there will always be workplace grievances, most of which get resolved by successful conciliation, albeit usually informally and not always satisfactorily.  Undoubtedly the Code will improve this further as adopting its approach into procedures should not be a problem for many organisations and their HR professionals, not least because employees' representatives know their position will be protected if they follow these procedures. 

Mediation is also now familiar to many - the CIPD Workplace Mediation Survey in 2008 found that almost half of all organisations use mediation more often now than they did three years ago (with a fifth having come on board during this period).  There is however some way to go in that the research also found that, whilst many organisations incorporate mediation into their procedures, very few include it within their standard employment contracts even though this is an area has the greatest potential for positive impact.

The most important challenge remains - organisations need to create a cultural shift so that it becomes more natural to mediate than to fight a grievance. Crucially this aspect of organisational culture is what will affect the number of grievances being satisfactorily resolved, and not the Code in isolation. Plainly, cultural change and its effects will not be felt immediately.  We can, however, expect that, over time, the more progressive organisations will come to appreciate that mediation is a cultural asset, that can successfully both restore and end difficult relationships, and they will therefore use it to build on what is already working within their existing policies.

The keys to gaining the benefits of mediation and successfully embedding it within a culture are firstly to understand how to customise the process and secondly to use it and become used to it.  Mediation fits well into grievance procedures because it is an adaptable process, but it is important therefore not to impose too tight a structure onto its use as this might restrict scope for flexibility and creative solutions.

Using mediation successfully is also about understanding the choices available in making it fit the needs of each and every dispute.  On a macro-level, do you know if you want to train mediators internally to help with your disputes (we know that E.On and GE both do this successfully at an international level) or would it be more effective to draft in external expertise (we work with a major consultancy and a high street bank to do exactly this)? Or maybe use a combination of the two in a tiered process?

If you need external help, what approach should you take?  The ACAS CIPD Mediation: an Employer's Guide sets the scene:  "If the decision is to use an external mediator then there are a range of options.  As well as public and not-for-profit sector providers such as ACAS and the Centre for Effective Dispute Resolution (CEDR), there are a growing number of private sector mediation providers offering workplace mediators and training for in-house mediators."

A plethora of new vendors have indeed sprung up in advance of the Code's arrival; and the Guide offers a number of useful pointers as to how employers might distinguish between the good, the bad and the indifferent.

On a micro-level, for every dispute you consider, there is also the question of what sort of mediator you want for that dispute.  Do you want someone who understands the industry in which your employees work, knows the language they speak and the processes they use, or is the most important factor that they are expert in employment law, or their ability to be tough, or compassionate?  You might want a mediator with all of these skills, but you may well need to prioritise the most important factors in each case and have an appropriate pool to select from.  Again, it makes sense for employers to have their plans in place rather than make rushed, and possibly rash, decisions when a dispute arises.

The playing field may not have changed when it comes to dealing with grievances but the opportunity to capitalise on the advantages of a cultural introduction of mediation is the challenge which the ultimate winners will have addressed.

For more information see:

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

In association with
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Check to state you have read and
agree to our Terms and Conditions

Terms & Conditions and Privacy Statement (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd and as a user you are granted a non-exclusive, revocable license to access the Website under its terms and conditions of use. Your use of the Website constitutes your agreement to the following terms and conditions of use. Mondaq Ltd may terminate your use of the Website if you are in breach of these terms and conditions or if Mondaq Ltd decides to terminate your license of use for whatever reason.

Use of

You may use the Website but are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the content and articles available (the Content). You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these terms & conditions or with the prior written consent of Mondaq Ltd. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information about’s content, users or contributors in order to offer them any services or products which compete directly or indirectly with Mondaq Ltd’s services and products.


Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published on this server for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers hereby disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use or performance of information available from this server.

The documents and related graphics published on this server could include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes are periodically added to the information herein. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers may make improvements and/or changes in the product(s) and/or the program(s) described herein at any time.


Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.

Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.

If you do not want us to provide your name and email address you may opt out by clicking here .

If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of products and services offered by Mondaq by clicking here .

Information Collection and Use

We require site users to register with Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to view the free information on the site. We also collect information from our users at several different points on the websites: this is so that we can customise the sites according to individual usage, provide 'session-aware' functionality, and ensure that content is acquired and developed appropriately. This gives us an overall picture of our user profiles, which in turn shows to our Editorial Contributors the type of person they are reaching by posting articles on Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) – meaning more free content for registered users.

We are only able to provide the material on the Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) site free to site visitors because we can pass on information about the pages that users are viewing and the personal information users provide to us (e.g. email addresses) to reputable contributing firms such as law firms who author those pages. We do not sell or rent information to anyone else other than the authors of those pages, who may change from time to time. Should you wish us not to disclose your details to any of these parties, please tick the box above or tick the box marked "Opt out of Registration Information Disclosure" on the Your Profile page. We and our author organisations may only contact you via email or other means if you allow us to do so. Users can opt out of contact when they register on the site, or send an email to with “no disclosure” in the subject heading

Mondaq News Alerts

In order to receive Mondaq News Alerts, users have to complete a separate registration form. This is a personalised service where users choose regions and topics of interest and we send it only to those users who have requested it. Users can stop receiving these Alerts by going to the Mondaq News Alerts page and deselecting all interest areas. In the same way users can amend their personal preferences to add or remove subject areas.


A cookie is a small text file written to a user’s hard drive that contains an identifying user number. The cookies do not contain any personal information about users. We use the cookie so users do not have to log in every time they use the service and the cookie will automatically expire if you do not visit the Mondaq website (or its affiliate sites) for 12 months. We also use the cookie to personalise a user's experience of the site (for example to show information specific to a user's region). As the Mondaq sites are fully personalised and cookies are essential to its core technology the site will function unpredictably with browsers that do not support cookies - or where cookies are disabled (in these circumstances we advise you to attempt to locate the information you require elsewhere on the web). However if you are concerned about the presence of a Mondaq cookie on your machine you can also choose to expire the cookie immediately (remove it) by selecting the 'Log Off' menu option as the last thing you do when you use the site.

Some of our business partners may use cookies on our site (for example, advertisers). However, we have no access to or control over these cookies and we are not aware of any at present that do so.

Log Files

We use IP addresses to analyse trends, administer the site, track movement, and gather broad demographic information for aggregate use. IP addresses are not linked to personally identifiable information.


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that Mondaq (or its affiliate sites) are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of these third party sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this Web site.

Surveys & Contests

From time-to-time our site requests information from users via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and the user therefore has a choice whether or not to disclose any information requested. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and delivery address), and demographic information (such as postcode, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the functionality of the site.


If a user elects to use our referral service for informing a friend about our site, we ask them for the friend’s name and email address. Mondaq stores this information and may contact the friend to invite them to register with Mondaq, but they will not be contacted more than once. The friend may contact Mondaq to request the removal of this information from our database.


This website takes every reasonable precaution to protect our users’ information. When users submit sensitive information via the website, your information is protected using firewalls and other security technology. If you have any questions about the security at our website, you can send an email to

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user’s personally identifiable information changes (such as postcode), or if a user no longer desires our service, we will endeavour to provide a way to correct, update or remove that user’s personal data provided to us. This can usually be done at the “Your Profile” page or by sending an email to

Notification of Changes

If we decide to change our Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy, we will post those changes on our site so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it. If at any point we decide to use personally identifiable information in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, we will notify users by way of an email. Users will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. We will use information in accordance with the privacy policy under which the information was collected.

How to contact Mondaq

You can contact us with comments or queries at

If for some reason you believe Mondaq Ltd. has not adhered to these principles, please notify us by e-mail at and we will use commercially reasonable efforts to determine and correct the problem promptly.