Acas chair warns against lawyers getting hands on new dispute resolution procedure rules

Employment lawyers must not be allowed to “get their hands” on any new dispute resolution procedures, the departing head of Acas has warned.

Rita Donaghy, who steps down as chair of the conciliation service this week after seven years in the role, said she was concerned that lawyers would end up being the only group that benefited from redrafted dispute rules.

The existing three-step statutory procedures, introduced in 2004, have been highly unpopular, and led to an increase in tribunal claims. The government is set to announce new measures to improve dispute resolution later this month.

“The one area where I have some worries is that the lawyers get their hands on this again, and turn employment relations around to be a forerunner to tribunals,” Donaghy told Personnel Today last week. “That was the mistake made with the three-step procedure – a brilliant concept of every employer having proper disciplinary procedures was turned into a bureaucratic nightmare.”

Donaghy called for the injection of common sense back into the tribunal process and a return to the “old days” where tribunals had more freedom to make decisions.

“Tribunals are meant to be the tail end of a very large dog, but they have got so bogged down in bureaucratic procedures,” she said.

“There has been more and more litigation with legislation being refined and employment lawyers appealing [decisions] we will not get rid of that now. So in other words, the tail starts to wag the dog.”

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