Proposals for dispute resolution procedures seem to indicate the Government has not grasped the implications of UK case law and the EU's harassment practice code
New proposals published by the Government setting out how dispute resolution procedures will operate in practice may well create more problems than they solve if they are implemented in their current form.
The Employment Act 2002 established statutory minimum dismissal and grievance procedures (SDPs and SGPs) aimed at getting employees to sort out problems with employers in the workplace, rather than at an employment tribunal.
The Government wants the procedures in place by October 2004. Key proposals include:
- A standard three-step process for both grievance and disciplinary procedures comprising a written complaint, an initial meeting and, if necessary, an appeal meeting
- A modified two-step process for both grievance and disciplinary procedures, consisting of a written complaint by either party and an appeal meeting
An example of when this would apply would be in 'exceptional situation' gross misconduct cases where instant dismissal would be fair.
If either party has not completed the relevant procedure, the tribunal can increase or decrease the compensation by between 10 and 50 per cent.
The Government also sets out exemptions when the statutory procedures need not apply:
- Where one party acts in a violent, abusive or unacceptable manner. Examples given are a threat of harm or where one party has been subjected to harassment
- Factors beyond the control of either party making it impossible to proceed for the foreseeable future. The Government believes this could include long-term ill-health, incapacity, or the immediate closure of a business.
The proposals are already provoking criticism for being too complex and in conflict with the Acas code of practice dealing with disciplinary and grievance issues. Indeed, there are certain indications in the consultation document that the Government has either failed to understand, or is effectively trying to re-write the law of unfair dismissal.
When outlining the circumstances where the Government believes an employer has no choice but to dismiss without delay, the example is given of a bus driver losing their licence, yet case law dictates that a reasonable employer would look for alternative employment in such circu