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The old system of handling employee disputes has been replaced by a semi-voluntary revised ACAS code of practice from 6 April 2009.

It will be 'semi-voluntary' because if employers do not follow it, then employment tribunals will have power to increase by up to 25% any compensation awarded against them. But transitional rules mean that, in some cases, the old compulsory dispute resolution procedures apply, even if a claim is first lodged with an employment tribunal as late as October 2009.

ACAS has published new guidance notes on 'Discipline and Grievances at Work' - see www.acas.org.uk. These contain sample disciplinary rules, disciplinary and grievance procedures and sample letters.

There are also changes in the calculation for statutory redundancy pay. The two main changes, which came into effect on 1 February 2009 are: an increase from 330 to 350 in the limit on a week's pay when calculating statutory redundancy pay or the "basic award" component of unfair dismissal compensation; and a rise in the maximum "compensatory award" component of unfair dismissal compensation from 63,000 to 66,200. So the maximum statutory redundancy payment increases from 9,900 to 10,500 and the maximum unfair dismissal award in "ordinary" cases increases from 72,900 to 76,700.

David Smith, Legal Eagle