Tribunal shake-up is hailed as watershed

Employers believe the DTI’s radical plans to reform the employment tribunal
system will help cut the spiralling number of tribunal applications.

The proposals outlined in a consultation document published last Friday are
designed to promote conciliation in the workplace and reduce the strain on the
employment tribunal system.

It includes plans for employment tribunals to penalise employers and employees
if they fail to use internal grievance procedures. The DTI also wants to impose
a charge on employees for making tribunal applications, which they could get
back if their claim was successful.

Mike Emmott, employee relations adviser for the CIPD, thought the proposals
would reduce the number of tribunal applications significantly. They have
increased threefold in the past 10 years.

He said, "I think it is a watershed in the Government’s attitude
towards tribunals. It has accepted that the tribunal process has a number of
unsatisfactory features, including the fact that in two-thirds of cases the
first time the employer knows there is a problem is when they are notified that
there has been a tribunal application."

Russell McCallion, HR director for London Luton Airport, said, "These
proposals should pave the way for a more streamlined programme to dispute
resolution while still allowing deserving cases to be heard and judged upon in
an appropriate manner."

Marie Cleary, HR manager for Poole Hospital NHS Trust, agreed. "We
welcome changes to the tribunal system which promote the solution of cases
through local level processes, avoiding the financial and other resource costs
of defending a claim," she said.

By Ben Willmott

Key proposals

– Employers and employees must use grievance procedures

– Employees making tribunal applications will pay a charge

– Employers’ and employees’ awards to be penalised if internal grievance
procedures have not been used

– Enforcement of requirement for employment contract

– Unlawful pay deductions and breach of contract to be fast-tracked

– Time limits extended for lodging tribunal claims when internal grievance
procedures ongoing

– Responses must be returned to the DTI by 8 October

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