Changes to employment dispute resolution procedures
You may be aware that there was recently a public review by the Department for Employment and Learning, of the Statutory Dispute Resolution Procedures. Following review, the Statutory Grievance Procedures have been repealed in their entirety and replaced by the Labour Relations Agency Code of Practice on disciplinary and Grievance Procedures (April 2011). This new Code of Practice makes for essential reading for employers. The Labour Relations Agency has also produced a helpful Advisory Guide to accompany the Code. Both documents can be found on the Labour Relations Agency website.
Employers should note that there has been no change to the Statutory Discipline and Dismissal Procedures and failure to follow these procedures in appropriate cases will mean that a dismissal is automatically unfair.
There are a number of similarities between the new Code of Practice in relation to handling Grievances and the old Statutory Grievance Procedures. The format for dealing with formal grievances under the Code is:
- Employee provides a statement of grievance;
- The employer holds meeting with the employee(Employees have a statutory right to be accompanied at such meetings);
- The employer decides on the appropriate action to take;
- A notable change from the old procedure is that employees should now state in their grievance how they wish their grievance to be resolved. This puts a greater emphasis on resolving issues, rather than viewing the grievance as simply a precursor to litigation.
There are a number of points for employers to note:
- Unreasonable failure to follow the Code of Practice in relation to grievances could lead to an uplift in any Tribunal award by up to 50%. (Similarly if employees unreasonably fail to follow the Code their award may be reduced by up to 50%);
- There is no longer a Modified Grievance Procedure (MGP). This was commonly used where an employee raised a grievance after employment had ended. Where the employee agreed to using the MGP, the grievance was dealt with in writing and there was no right of appeal. The employer now has an option on whether to deal with post-employment grievances, but should be aware that if they do not, they will have lost the opportunity to investigate with the ex-employee the nature of their grievance before having to potentially respond to Tribunal proceedings;
- It is no longer necessary for a Claimant to provide his employer with a written grievance and wait 28 days before submitting a Tribunal claim. This means that employers may not have notice of a claim before receiving Tribunal proceedings to which they must respond;
- The Code confirms that employers should keep records relating to the grievances and should ensure that in doing so it complies with the Data Protection Act 1998;
- The Code recommends that employers consult with employees, managers and their representatives when drawing up grievance procedures. Employers should take reasonable steps to ensure that everyone in the organisation understands the grievance procedures and that supervisors, managers and employee representatives are trained in their use. Employees should be given a copy of the full procedures or have ready access to them, for example, on a notice board.
The new procedures apply to matters occurring after 3 April 2011. Transitional arrangements apply where grievances relate to matters occurring before 3 April 2011 and, if in doubt, parties should seek further advice regarding their rights and obligations.
If you require further information on any of the aspects discussed in this article contact :
Sharon McArdle, firstname.lastname@example.org, Telephone 028 9082 0532.