Government plans to introduce statutory grievance procedures to deal with disputes at work have been announced.
The Department of Trade and Industry has proposed a new three-stage statutory consultation procedure to ensure staff and employers discuss disputes at work before taking the matter further.
The rules would force staff with a complaint to lodge a formal grievance with their employer and are designed to try and reduce the growing number of employment tribunals.
Employers that dismiss workers without following the new process would face an automatic finding of unfair dismissal under the plans.
The number of applications made for a tribunal has risen from 103,000 in 1999/2000 to about 112,000 in 2001/02.
Employment minister Gerry Sutcliffe, announcing the proposals, said: "Disputes at work are expensive, stressful and disruptive for both employers and employees alike.
"Early, constructive discussion can produce solutions before problems escalate and working relationships break down."
The new minimum three-stage procedure is expected to come into effect in October next year.
By Ben Willmott