Draft Code of Practice on Disciplinary and Grievance Procedures

– in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 12:15 pm on 14 October 2002.

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Photo of Carmel Hanna Carmel Hanna Social Democratic and Labour Party 12:15, 14 October 2002

I beg to move

That the Labour Relations Agency’s draft Code of Practice on Disciplinary and Grievance Procedures be approved.

The draft code was laid before the Assembly on 24 September 2002 and is subject to affirmation by the Assembly. On approval by the Assembly, the draft code becomes the code, and the Department will make an Order bringing it into effect on an appointed day.

The draft code is issued under article 90 of the Industrial Relations (Northern Ireland) Order 1992, which gives the Labour Relations Agency power, subject to departmental and Assembly approval, to issue codes for the purpose of improving industrial relations. The draft code is a revision of an existing code of practice on disciplinary procedures and practices in employment that was issued by the Labour Relations Agency in November 1990.

The draft code will replace the old one. The main reason for the revision is the need for the draft code to take account of a legislative change. Article 12 of the Employment Relations (Northern Ireland) Order 1999 provided for a new statutory right for individuals to be accompanied at certain disciplinary and grievance hearings. That right came into effect on 2 June 2002. The draft code gives practical guidance to employers, workers and workers’ representatives who are involved in grievance and disciplinary matters.

In every organisation there should be clearly understood arrangements and principles, however simple, which are consistent with the underlying intentions set out in the draft code. The draft code addresses disciplinary issues relating to problems of conduct or performance and how employers seek to address them. It provides guidance on the practices and procedures that could, and indeed, in some instances should, be followed. It considers how employers can best handle the grievances that individuals bring to them and provides guidance on the statutory right of workers to be accompanied at a disciplinary or grievance hearing.

The code highlights the best practice principles in terms of rules and procedures. It outlines appropriate structures and the balance between formal and informal processes, provides guidance on how decisions should be made and recorded, and suggests timescales by which formal warnings may be regarded as spent. The impact assessment undertaken on the draft code concludes that it will not disadvantage any of the groups specified in section 75 of the Northern Ireland Act 1998; nor will it place any additional costs on employers. It will have a positive impact in the workplace.

While failure to observe any provision of the draft code does not of itself render anyone liable to proceedings, it may be admissible in evidence in any proceedings before an industrial tribunal or the industrial court, if deemed to be relevant. I commend the motion to the Assembly.

Photo of Esmond Birnie Esmond Birnie UUP 12:45, 14 October 2002

I support the motion. The Committee considered the draft code at its meeting on Thursday 3 October 2002. As the Minister said, the code is being introduced as a replacement for an existing code of practice, and it attempts to give helpful guidance to employers and employees. It is based on a similar code in Great Britain produced by the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service, which is the GB equivalent of the Labour Relations Agency. Therefore the production of the code maintains parity with Great Britain. As the Minister said, the regulatory and equality impact assessments have judged the code favourably. I urge the House to support the motion.

Photo of Carmel Hanna Carmel Hanna Social Democratic and Labour Party

I welcome the Chairperson’s remarks. The draft code sets out practical guidance which aims to promote the improvement of industrial relations and, therefore, ultimately enhance the economic performance of industry.

Question put and agreed to.


That the Labour Relations Agency’s draft Code of Practice on Disciplinary and Grievance Procedures be approved.