New plans for more efficient workplace dispute resolution
In his opening speech at the second reading of the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill, the Business Secretary set out the Government’s plans to introduce a measure to boost business confidence and ease the handling of workplace disputes through facilitating the use of settlement agreements between employers and employees.
Under these measures, employers will be able to offer settlement agreements before a formal dispute arises and will be legally protected from this offer being used as evidence in an unfair dismissal tribunal case. Employees will also continue to enjoy full protection of their employment rights, as they can choose to reject the offer of a settlement agreement and proceed to a tribunal. Evidence from the private sector shows that a sensible compromise can be reached in the majority of cases.
Business Secretary Vince Cable said: “This Bill is an important part of this Government’s plan for long-term growth: fostering enterprise, supporting business and creating jobs.
“Settlement agreements are smart, fair and pro-business reforms which deliver results for employees and employers. It empowers employers by enabling them to keep their workforce flexible and encouraging alternative ways of solving workplace problems rather than resorting to a tribunal. But crucially it does so in a way that keeps the necessary protections for employees in place.
“Our proposed measures and guidance will achieve this objective. Making this approach simple to use will encourage employers to take on staff in the knowledge this there is an effective mechanism for dealing with serious problems if they occur.
“We have spent time ensuring we have got this measure right and I truly believe this a smart confidence boosting measure for business.”
Employment Relations Minister Norman Lamb said: “There are inevitably occasions when the employment relationship doesn’t work out. Employers have to feel confident in dealing with situations such as where an employee isn’t pulling their weight or where someone is unreliable or even guilty of misconduct.
“In these instances it is sometimes in the best interests of both employee and employer to end the relationship speedily by reaching a settlement. An employee leaving by agreement can do so with their dignity intact. The employer secures peace of mind knowing that they will not face expensive tribunal proceedings.
“We know that many large companies use settlement agreements in this type of situation but we want to ensure that all employers – large and small – can make use of them without incurring large legal fees.”
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