Opinion

Workplace dispute reforms proposed

Plans to improve the way in which workplace disputes are resolved have been published by the Government.

Concerns have been raised by businesses that the system has become too costly, takes too much time, places unnecessary strains on small businesses and that it is too easy to make unmerited or vexatious claims.

The Government wants workplace disputes to be resolved as early and as easily as possible. The key proposals set out in a consultation published are:

  • Increasing the qualifying period for employees to be able to bring a claim for unfair dismissal from one to two years;
  • Requiring all claims to be lodged with ACAS in the first instance to allow pre-claim conciliation to be offered. This also includes introducing settlement offers to encourage parties to make reasonable offers of settlement;
  • Speeding up the tribunal process by extending the jurisdictions where judges would sit alone to include unfair dismissal, introducing legal officers to deal with certain case management functions and taking witness statements as read; and
  • Providing Employment Tribunals with a range of more flexible case management powers so that weaker cases can be dealt with in a way that does not mean disproportionate costs for employers.

There is also a commitment for the Ministry of Justice to consult separately on introducing fees for Employment Tribunal cases and appeals, to ensure that users contribute towards the cost of running the system.

It all seems like the employee could lose out...

This was first published in February 2011

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