Following a review of the dispute resolution procedures conducted by Michael Gibbons the government has launched a consultation based on his recommendations. The headline question to be addressed in the consultation is: “Should the statutory dispute resolution procedures be repealed?” Repeal was the first recommendation that Michael Gibbons made. In addition he also recommended the following:
- That the government produce clear, simple, non-prescriptive guidelines on grievances, discipline and dismissal in the workplace.
- Ensure that there are incentives to comply with new guidelines, by maintaining and expanding Employment Tribunals’ discretion to take into account reasonableness of behaviour and procedure when making awards and costs orders.
- Challenge all employer and employee organisations to commit to implementing and promoting early dispute resolution.
- Introducing a new, simple process to settle monetary disputes.
- Increase the quality of advice to potential Claimants and Respondents through an adequately resourced helpline and the internet.
- Redesign the Employment Tribunal application process, so that potential Claimant’s access it through the helpline and receive advice on alternatives.
- Offer a free early dispute resolution service, including, where appropriate, mediation, before a claim is lodged.
- Offering incentives to use early resolution techniques by giving Employment Tribunals discretion, to take into account the party’s efforts to settle the dispute, when making awards and cost orders.
- Abolish the fixed period within which ACAS must conciliate.
All of the above are issues to be addressed during the consultation process with specific questions being raised as to which particular issues should be pursued and, if so, how.
Michael Gibbons also recommended that employment law should be simplified and that there should be a recognition that its complexity creates uncertainty and cost for employers and employees. This is not a matter that will be considered as part of the consultation. Instead, the government refers to the fact that the Employment Law Simplification Review (ESLR), was launched last year to address this issue and has taken forward a range of proposed measures, including significant improvements to content, delivery and awareness of employment law advice and guidelines. As part of the ELSR process, a Practitioner Panel was appointed to advise the government in December 2006. As well as advising on the various elements in the ELSR, the Panel has been invited to suggest ways in which employment law could be simplified or clarified.
Michael Gibbons did make a series of recommendations with regard to the Employment Tribunal system with a view to making it simpler and cheaper for users and the government itself. The recommendations included:
- Simplifying Employment Tribunal Claim and Response forms and encouraging Claimants to give a succinct statement or estimate of loss.
- Unifying the time limits on Employment Tribunal claims.
- Giving Employment Tribunals enhanced powers to simplify the management of Multiple Claimant cases.
- Encouraging Employment Tribunals to engage in active, early case management and consistency of practice.
The consultation is to address these points and others addressed by Michael Gibbons as well as posing various other questions in order to obtain views on how the Employment Tribunal service could be improved.
The consultation closes on 20 June 2007 and the consultation document itself is available on the DTI website: www.dti.gov.uk.