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The way workplace disputes are handled will change from Monday. The Government's scrapping of the statutory grievance and disciplinary procedures is just one of the law changes that will come into effect on 6th April.

The Government introduced a strict protocol for workplace disputes in 2004, forcing employers to go through precise steps when pursuing a grievance with or dismissing an employee. Failure to adhere to the policy made a dismissal automatically unfair, leading to payouts.

The Government's procedure was designed to reduce the number of disputes ending up in the Employment Tribunal, but had the opposite effect.

Mediation service ACAS has published a Code of Practice to take the place of the Government's procedure on Monday. Ben Doherty, an employment law specialist at Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind OUT-LAW.COM, previously said that employers should follow the ACAS Code.

"Though it is not compulsory to follow the Code, failure to do so will be taken into account by Tribunals when deciding the claim, and if it is successful the Tribunal may increase payouts by up to 25 per cent if the Code is not followed. In the past the Tribunals had to increase payouts by between 10 per cent and 50 per cent," he said.

Laws on annual leave changed on 1st April. The statutory minimum annual leave entitlement has risen from 4.8 weeks, or 24 days, for those on a five day week, to 5.6 weeks, or 28 days.

The penalties for not paying the statutory minimum wage will be made more severe from 6th April. Any firm found not paying the minimum will face an automatic fine of £5,000 and companies could face unlimited fines. Inspectors will also be given new powers to enter premises, investigate and even carry away records to determine compliance with the requirement to pay the minimum wage.

The Employment Act will change from 6th April to increase the powers available to those investigating whether or not employment agencies are being run properly.

Employees will also, from 6th April, have an extended right to request flexible working patterns to care for children. Employees currently have the right to request flexible working and have that request seriously considered by their employer if their children are under six or disabled children under 18. It will now be extended to the parents of children under 16.

Copyright © 2009, OUT-LAW.com

OUT-LAW.COM is part of international law firm Pinsent Masons.

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