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Dispute Resolution - Consultation Results

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As subscribers will know, new mandatory dispute resolution procedures come into force in October 2004. Failure by an employer to follow the mandatory disciplinary procedure will render a dismissal automatically unfair and lead to an increase in compensation for employees. Failure by an employee to lodge a grievance will (normally) prevent an employee from bringing a tribunal claim.

The government issued a consultation paper in July 2003, seeking views on a large number of issues arising from the new procedures. The government's response to the consultation has been published this morning.

Key points are:

  • the disciplinary procedure will not apply to oral or written warnings, despite strong union representations to the contrary;
  • it has been made clear the 'modified procedure' will apply only in a very small sub-set of gross misconduct cases;
  • a formal definition of 'grievance' is introduced, namely "a complaint by an employee about action which his employer has or is contemplating taking in relation to him."
  • an extension will be introduced to the 3-month time limit for unfair dismissal claims, where the employee has reasonable grounds for believing a disciplinary procedure is still ongoing when the 3-month limit expires;
  • clarification of the overlap between disciplinary and grievance matters;

Interestingly, in paragraph 145 of the response, the DTI states "The government acknowledges that the Regulations are not simple..." - a far cry from the initial policy aim of a simple, straightforward disciplinary procedure to remove legal technicalities from the workplace.