Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 20 September 2014

New guidelines aimed at helping employers to get it right first time

Dr Alan Scott , employment relations policy and legislation branch, Department for Employment and Learning

Question: I'm starting a new business with five employees and I'm worried about potential industrial tribunal claims. What's the best way of making sure everything runs smoothly with the people I employ?

Answer: A recent review carried out by the Department for Employment and Learning has revealed widespread agreement that a fundamental cultural shift is needed in the way that Northern Ireland plc deals with workplace disputes if the region is to secure a competitive advantage.

On April 3 this year, there will be a series of changes to the legal framework governing workplace disputes. The confusing three-step statutory requirements around workplace grievances will be dropped in favour of a 'good practice' model with simple principles-based guidance, facilitating a sharp focus on the dispute at hand rather than procedural compliance.

A new Labour Relations Agency Code of Practice will explain the steps that employers and employees should take.

Of course, prevention is better than cure and the department is looking at how it can assist small employers to be 'right first time' in discharging key employment rights responsibilities.

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