No disputing it’s time to prepare

By Elizabeth Adams, partner, Beachcroft Wansbroughs

Mark it in your diary, put it in on your PC and your palm-top, and stick
notes on your fridge: the new Statutory Dispute Resolution (SDR) procedures
come into effect on 1 October.

‘So what?’ you ask. Well, failure to comply with the new SDR procedures
means an employee’s compensation could be increased or decreased by up to 50
per cent. Plus any dismissal by an employer failing to comply will be
automatically deemed unfair.

Some organisations will already have disciplinary procedures in place, but
the standard dismissal and disciplinary procedure (DDP) and the standard
grievance procedure (GP) essentially provide for a written statement of the
grounds for the grievance/disciplinary action; a meeting between employer and
employee (following which the employee is informed of the outcome and their
right to appeal); and an appeal. But HR now has more to think about.

In all the scenarios outlined in the first column of the chart (right), the
employer has not complied with the relevant GP/DDP.

The consequences could be far-reaching. First, any dismissal would be
automatically unfair and second, any compensation awarded to the employee may
be increased by up to 50 per cent – ie, an award of £100,000 for unlawful
discrimination could rise to £150,000.

The moral of this tale is simple: SDR will make significant changes to the
way employment relations are conducted. Unfortunately, these changes are not
obvious, but may ultimately have very costly consequences.

In anticipation of the SDR procedures coming into effect, we suggest
employers take the following steps to ensure they are not caught out:

– Review all policies relating to dismissals (ie, not just disciplinary) and
to whom they apply in light of the DDP requirements

– Review your grievance procedure without delay

– Review all contracts of employment to ensure they provide the written
particulars required under section 1 of the Employment Rights Act 1996

– Review retention of employment records – the extension of time limits
means that documents should now be kept for longer in case of tribunal claims.

– Provide appropriate training for managers dealing with these procedures on
the ground.

Additional reporting by Udara Ranasinghe, solicitor, Beachcroft
Wansbroughs

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