Dismissal procedures: Polkey principle may stay in redrafted dispute rules

Controversial regulations meaning dismissals are automatically rendered unlawful by a failure to follow set procedures – the Polkey principle – could remain when the unpopular dispute resolution rules are redrawn, it has emerged.

The CBI revealed that it may be willing to accept the Polkey principle staying – but only if the legal procedures for dealing with disciplinaries and grievances are massively simplified.

Until now, the employers’ body has vehemently opposed the Polkey principle, which trade unions are insistent should remain in the new laws.

But Susan Anderson, director of HR policy at the CBI, told Personnel Today: “If we can get a simple code of practice then we would review our position. But as long as we have this bureaucratic system, then we want [Polkey] removed.”

Anderson said that the three-step statutory procedures, introduced in 2004, had become more like a 13-step process, and had caused an increase in “weak and vexatious” claims.

The CBI has been in talks with the TUC and employment relations minister Pat McFadden over the wording of the new rules. The government is set to announce in the near future what measures it will include in the Employment Simplification Bill to improve dispute resolution.

McFadden hinted that the other main sticking point in negotiations could be resolved in the CBI’s favour with the removal of lay members from some tribunals.

The TUC wants representatives of employers and unions to remain in all cases. But McFadden said at a fringe event at the TUC Congress in Brighton last week: “We are looking at whether we really need the same procedures for everything.”

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