Arbitration plan set to cut tribunals cases…

The
long-awaited alternative to employment tribunals will be launched this month
when the Acas arbitration scheme is put before parliament.

The scheme
aims to cut the number of cases going to tribunal by offering the option of
confidential and binding arbitration. If approved, it will be operational by
spring 2001 and carried out by 100 experienced arbitrators.

Acas
estimates one in seven unfair dismissal cases (about 1,000) could be dealt with
outside the tribunal system next year. At the moment, about 43 per cent of all
claims concern unfair dismissal. Acas will produce guidance for the scheme by
March.

The move
has been eagerly awaited by HR managers. Terry Mills, personnel
director-commercial of Dairy Crest, said, “Anything that speeds up the process
has to be good. Business can ill  afford
the additional costs of  tribunals in
the current climate.”

The scheme
will aim to reduce the amount of legal procedure. James Hoggart, personnel
manager at Reading Borough Council, said, “It is getting back to the original
principle of tribunals – a quick, straightforward resolution for disputes. With
all the lawyers involved, this became lost in the machinery.”

The scheme
does commit those involved to reach agreement. Rita Donaghy, chair of Acas,
told Personnel Today that applicants will have to sign a waiver agreeing they
can’t back out of it.

The scheme,
proposed in 1998, has been delayed because of legal concerns about its
compatibility with the Human Rights Act.

David
Yeandle, deputy director of employment policy at Engineering Employer’s
Federation, said it would be “a useful experiment” but thinks firms should
develop procedures in-house that prevent the need for arbitration.

By Mike
Broad

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