Alternative to tribunals set for end of the year

The Government has pledged to implement the long-awaited alternative to employment tribunals by the end of the year in a bid to cut soaring numbers of unfair dismissal actions.

The DTI is working with Acas on the new voluntary arbitration scheme – which will be welcomed by HR managers as a way of cutting legal costs and resolving simple dismissal cases.

David Yeandle, deputy director of employment policy at the Engineering Employers’ Federation, urged the Government to intervene soon to try to buck the trend. Last week (5 September) Personnel Today highlighted the 23 per cent increase of unfair dismissal cases.

Yeandle said, “The introduction of the voluntary arbitration scheme has been put off again and again in the past two years and I am wondering if it will ever happen.”

A DTI spokeswoman said, “We are working towards implementing the Acas voluntary arbitration scheme by the end of the year and we are committed to having it introduced.” The scheme was proposed by the Government in 1998 and was planned to be introduced in spring 1999.

Under the new system, which would apply only to simple unfair dismissal cases, both sides would agree to enter into voluntary arbitration. Then an Acas arbitrator would listen to the complaints from both sides and decide how much compensation should be awarded, if any.

At the moment, once arbitration fails there is little alternative to the tribunal route. The proposed scheme is designed to be quicker, cheaper and less legalistic. If successful, there are plans to introduce it to replace other kinds of employment tribunal.

Vauxhall Motors’ director of personnel and member of the Acas council Bruce Warman said, “The scheme will be of great benefit to HR because it will cut the amount of legal costs and lead to a quick resolution of simple unfair dismissal cases.

Senior policy adviser at the CBI Jadine Riley said, “To enter the arbitration scheme, employees must waive their right to appeal. But this clashes with the Human Rights Act and this has caused a delay.”

By Richard Staines

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