TUC warns Government reforms will cause increase in tribunals

Government reforms to resolve more workplace disputes have been labelled a
squandered opportunity that could lead to a rise in employment tribunals.

The TUC claims the Government has broken important promises after draft
regulations to implement the Employment Act 2002 did not include a contractual
right for staff to use a three-step procedure to deal with disciplinary or
grievance issues.

The procedure would give them the right to a written notice of grievance, an
internal hearing and an appeal before the dispute reached tribunal.

Under the new arrangements, there will be no contractual right for workers
to invoke the three-stage procedure, and the process will not apply to oral and
written warnings or suspensions.

Hannah Reed, senior employment rights officer at the TUC, said that
employers will not be obliged to use the procedures to deal with day-to-day
issues, and in practice, they will only apply when an employer has already
decided to sack someone.

"The Government is trying to restrict the number of tribunal cases,
rather than improve employment relations in the workplace," she said.
"There has been a big shift in focus since promises made last year, and
this could actually bring an increase in tribunal claims."

"They should be ensuring full and good procedures cut in as early as
possible to avoid tribunals and ensure individuals can stay in their
jobs," said Reed.

Mike Emmott, head of employee relations at the Chartered Institute of
Personnel and Development (CIPD), said the Department of Trade and Industry
(DTI) was wise to tread carefully and test the procedure in limited
circumstances.

"Making this procedure a contractual right could increase the number of
tribunal cases," he said. "If you were to give individuals a new
statutory right, this would create a new jurisdiction to bring tribunal
claims."

The DTI said it was aware of the TUC’s concerns, but would take the process
step-by-step and review it over time.

By Michael Millar

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