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Tribunal Reform Consultation Paper

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Within a week of the introduction of the new procedural regime, the government has issued a consultation paper on further reform of the employment tribunals.

Subscribers may have seen some details of these proposals in a leaked report to The Times on Friday 20th July. The full consultation paper is now available at . Responses are invited by 8th October 2001.

The main proposals, on which the government seeks views, are:

- organisations which do not have dispute resolution procedures in place - or do not use them when workplace disagreements arise - to have arrangements for managing such disagreements;

- increasing awards at employment tribunals where a basic new dispute resolution procedure has not been used by the employer - with awards being reduced where an employee has not used the grievance procedures before applying to the tribunal;

- limited extensions to the time limit for lodging tribunal claims where an internal disciplinary or grievance procedure is still in play - in order to facilitate resolution in the workplace;

- an issue fee (£100 has been mooted) to issue an application in the tribunal. Exemptions would apply to those on benefits;

- a presumption in favour of awarding costs in 'weak' cases, with an obligation for tribunals to provide reasons where they do not award costs;

- tribunals to be allowed the discretion to award wasted non-legal costs (such as a party's overnight expenses) in circumstances where a party has acted vexatiously.

- a fast-track system to be introduced for certain jurisdictions (such as unlawful pay deductions and breach of contract);

- allow the Presidents of the Employment Tribunals to issue practice directions, in order to achieve greater consistency throughout the country

- introducing a fixed period of conciliation to focus parties' minds within that period on whether or not they were interested in reaching a settlement.

- a limited amendment to unfair dismissal legislation to allow employment tribunals to disregard minor procedural errors by employers, provided such errors have made no difference in practice and the dismissal is otherwise fair.