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New Dispute Resolution Procedures

July 9 2003 - Draft regulations have been published for the radical overhaul of dispute resolution procedures.

From October 2004, there will be a requirement for employers and employees to follow a minimum three-stage process to ensure that disputes are discussed at work. The process will require:

- the problem to be set out in writing with full details provided to the other party;

- both parties to meet to discuss the problem; and

- an appeal to be arranged if requested.

The draft regulations flow from the Employment Act 2002 which set out basic procedures for handling disputes in the workplace but the detailed application of these provisions, including exemptions from using them, is specified in the draft Regulations published today. All employers are required to have procedures in place to deal with disputes by October 2004. Thereafter, in most circumstances:

- employees will not be able to make claims to employment tribunals about grievances unless they have previously raised a formal grievance at work; but,

- employers who dismiss staff without using the statutory procedure face an automatic finding of unfair dismissal against them.

Employment Minister Gerry Sutcliffe said:

"Disputes at work are expensive, stressful and disruptive for both employers and employees alike. But early, constructive discussion can produce solutions before problems escalate and working relationships breakdown.

"We want to establish new minimum standards that will help employers and employees resolve disputes before it is too late. We are consulting early on these draft regulations to allow businesses plenty of time to adjust to these changes."

The government considers most employers already have fair and comprehensive disciplinary and grievance procedures and, therefore, most organizations will not be affected by the proposed Regulations. The measures announced today are intended to help employers without procedures, often smaller businesses, to solve disputes when they arise.

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