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New process for resolving workplace disputes

As from 6 April, there is a new process for solving disciplinary and grievance issues at work.

The system is designed to make handling workplace dispute easier and to reduce the risk of problems getting as far as an employment tribunal.

Under the old system, employers had to follow a mandatory three-step system when dealing with disputes. This has now been scrapped.

Instead, employers can develop procedures that best suit their workplaces.

However, both employers and employees will need to observe the new revised, principles-based code of practice for dealing with disputes, which has been drawn up by Acas, the conciliation service.

Employees and employers will be able to call the Acas helpline for impartial and confidential advice on the options available for resolving workplace problems. They will also be able to access a free early conciliation service for certain types of cases.

Pat McFadden, the Minister for Employment Relations, said: “Tribunals can be costly, time-consuming and draining for people and businesses alike.

“We have changed the rules so that employers and employees will have greater flexibility to deal with grievances and disciplinary issues at work at the earliest opportunity. Acas’ expanded helpline and conciliation services will play a key role in delivering this.”

Katja Hall, employment policy director at the CBI, welcomed the new system: “CBI members attached great importance to this review and are pleased that the new regulations place substance rather than procedure back at the heart of resolving workplace disputes. This, and the focus on addressing problems at work early, will increase the number of workers who stay in their jobs, have a positive impact on industrial relations and can reduce costs for all parties.”

Details of the regulatory procedures that apply until 6 April and those that apply from 6 April are available at http://www.direct.gov.uk/resolvingdisputes.

Information about the transitional arrangements can be found at http://www.berr.gov.uk/resolvingdisputes.

The Acas helpline number is 08457 47 47 47, while the revised Acas Code of Practice can be accessed at http://www.acas.org.uk/dgcode2009