University of Leicester study of workplace employment revealed the trend towards the increasing formalisation of dispute procedures continued in the 2000s

Leicester, UK, 20-11-2014 — /EuropaWire/ — ‘The increasing trend towards the adoption of formal procedures has continued so they are now almost ubiquitous but mediation is increasingly being used in disputes’ –Professor Stephen Wood, University of Leicester

Study reveals:

  • Adoption of formal procedures for dispute resolution is now almost ubiquitous
  • There is little to suggest that mediation is being used at an early stage to prevent disciplinary and grievance matters entering formal procedures or resulting in litigation
  • Instead, mediation use appears to be a response to experiencing employment litigation or increased levels of conflict.

A new study of workplace employment has revealed the trend towards the increasing formalisation of dispute procedures continued in the 2000s. This is despite the Gibbons Report’s concerns in 2008 about this trend: that detailed written procedures were crowding out the use of informal methods, which allowed the parties more flexibility and might be more in tune with the culture of many organisations, particularly SMEs.

Leading employment relations expert Professor Stephen Wood, of the University of Leicester’s Centre for Sustainable Work and Employment Futures, has led a new report published as an ACAS Research Paper.

The report by S. Wood, R. Saundry and P. Latreille (2014), Analysis of the nature, extent and impact of grievance and disciplinary procedures and workplace mediation using WERS2011,is based on analysis of two government surveys, the Workplace Employment Relations Surveys of 2004 and 2011.

Professor Wood said that in the wake of concerns about possible consequences of increased formalisation, especially for SMEs, expressed most forcibly in the 2008 Gibbons Report, the report shows:

  • There was no evidence in WERS2011 of any reduction in formality between 2004 and 2011, following the Gibbons Report and consequent changes to the regulatory framework of individual dispute resolution in the late 2000s. Instead, the increasing trend towards the adoption of formal procedures has continued so they are now almost ubiquitous.  Organisational practices had coalesced around the three key principles set out in the statutory procedures and now enshrined in the Acas Code. (The key principles are: that the matter should be first put in writing; that a meeting should be held to discuss the issue; and that the employee should have the right to appeal against any decision.)
  • The provision for workplace mediation is now a significant feature of British workplaces. However, there is little to suggest that mediation is being used at an early stage to prevent disciplinary and grievance matters entering formal procedures or resulting in litigation. Instead, the use of mediation appears to be a response to experiencing employment litigation or increased levels of conflict.
  • The incidence of individual employment disputes is mainly influenced by workplace and workforce characteristics as opposed to conflict-resolution processes and procedures.

Professor Wood said: “Disciplinary and grievance procedures have been promoted by governments as a way of underpinning good employment practices – they provide for fair and consistent treatment – and the changes to the tribunal system (e.g. applicants having to pay) has reduced tribunal cases but are unlikely to reduce formalization and may even reinforce it, even in SMEs. If the increasing use of mediation is sustained it may be an interesting trend.”

Ends

Notes to editors:

For more information contact Professor Stephen Wood at: sjw111@leicester.ac.uk

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