Employers condemn work dispute plans

Government
plans to introduce statutory workplace dispute resolution procedures have been
condemned as far too complex and could lead to an increase in employment
tribunals.

The
proposals, announced by the new employment minister Gerry Sutcliffe, are supposed
to reduce the number of employment tribunals by placing a duty on firms and
workers to go through internal disciplinary procedures before considering a
tribunal application.

However,
employment experts have slammed the proposals released in a consultation
document earlier this month because they include a raft of exemptions and
conditions.

Parties
are exempt from following the procedures if either party has been subject to
harassment, for example, defined as the creation of a hostile, humiliating or
offensive environment.

This
could mean any workplace dispute involving bullying or any type of
discrimination would be exempt from the legislation, which forms part of the
Employment Act 2002.

Robin
Bloom, partner at employment law firm Dickinson Dees, said the exemptions could
create a new industry as lawyers target employers that have not followed
procedure. “Tribunals are hung up on procedure. This will give [employees] more
reasons to bring claims,” he said.

Head
of legal affairs at the Engineering Employers’ Federation, Peter Schofield,
agreed the proposed regulations must be made more practical. “We are concerned
that disputes which go to tribunal will now be made more complex by the
proposals as drafted,” he said. “Their outcome will be more likely to depend on
legal technicalities rather than justice of the case.”

Keith
Luxon, HR policy and reward manager at the Laurel Pub Company, said the
proposals’ complexity would slow down dispute resolution. “We were hoping for a
few simple steps that both sides could buy into.”

By
Quentin Reade

www.dti.gov.uk/er/individual/DRcondoc.pdf

Disputes
resolution procedure: what HR needs to know

The
new proposals aim to get employers and employees talking before a grievance
escalates to tribunal. Employers who dismiss employees without following the
new process will automatically face an unfair dismissal ruling.

The
new procedures will have three stages:

 1         The
problem must be set out in writing

 2         Both
parties must meet to discuss the problem

 3         If
a satisfactory conclusion is not achieved, an appeal can be arranged

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