Resolving Workplace Disputes - A Personal View From Alan Price

Peninsula Team

February 11 2011

We knew that big things were afoot regarding the shake up of workplace disputes and tribunal procedures towards the end of last year. We have now had confirmation of the latest consultation on employment law issues being launched by the Government.

The consultation is asking for views on making significant changes aiming to reduce the number of tribunal claims made each year.

The biggest news from our Advice Service’s perspective is the proposal to increase the qualifying period for unfair dismissal from 1 to 2 years, doubling the amount of time that an employee must work before they can claim unfair dismissal. Our clients will undoubtedly warmly receive this change because it means that they will have longer to consider the suitability of a new employee. I am glad to see that the Government finally appears to be seeing things from our clients’ point of view.

Many of our clients, who have gone through the stress of having a tribunal claim made against them, will also welcome the measures proposed concerning the speeding up of tribunals. Under the proposed system, cases won’t drag on for so long as they can do now. This is because more tribunal cases would be able to be heard by just a single employment judge, without the need for lay members, which would definitely streamline the process and bring it to a quicker resolution.

I am also happy to see the Government considering making claimants provide much more information on their claim form than they currently have to, and also the significant move to enforce the payment of a fee when they make a claim. Many of our clients are surprised to be landed with a tribunal claim by an ex-employee when they have genuinely had no prior warning that this route was being considered. Having to provide much more detailed information about what is being claimed, and especially having to pay a fee, will hopefully deter individuals from making claims just because they want to cause trouble, even where they know there is no real chance of success.

However, the proposal to introduce financial penalties, on top of current tribunal awards, for employers when they are found to have breached employee rights is a concerning matter. Having to pay a Tribunal award can be difficult enough for an employer to manage without the added threat of an additional fine. This proposal reinforces even more the need for our clients to use our 24 Hour Advice Service to the maximum when faced with a workplace dispute to ensure they do not face high financial penalties at tribunal.

The consultation will run until 20th April 2011. Other proposals include:

• Requiring all tribunal claims to be lodged with ACAS rather than directly to the Tribunals Service encouraging parties to use mediation as a way of resolving the dispute;
• Providing more flexible case management powers to employment tribunals to avoid disproportionate costs to employers in relation to weak cases;
• Withdrawing the payment of expenses;
• Review the current formula used for calculating the annual increase to tribunal awards and statutory redundancy payment limits.

For more information on the proposed changes outlined, or any other employment law issues, contact the 24 hour Advice Service on 0844 892 2772.

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