Workplace rights: Matters of dispute

How can employers and their staff be encouraged to sort out disagreements in the workplace without resorting to employment tribunals? That is the central issue for a root-and-branch independent review of options for improving employment dispute resolution now in process.

by Michael Burd and James Davies
Last Updated: 09 Oct 2013

The review's recommendations for reform are expected by summer. The Government seems to concede that the statutory discipline and grievance procedures it introduced in 2004 may not be working (as many had predicted they wouldn't). Although the legislation is good in theory, its technical complexity has increased the scope for argument and litigation rather than reduced it. The procedures may also have formalised the management of conflict at work in counterproductive ways.

A more effective policy might be to provide for third-party mediation to nip disputes in the bud before they turn into tribunal claims. In addition, the scope for employers and staff to engage in 'without prejudice' settlement discussions - an area of legal uncertainty - could usefully be clarified and extended. It remains to be seen whether the Government will opt for a truly radical overhaul of the regime for employment disputes or apply the sticking-plaster solution of tinkering with the existing rules.

Michael Burd and James Davies are heads of department, Employment and Incentives, at Lewis Silkin LLP solicitors

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