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Employment Act (Northern Ireland) 2011

Workplace dispute resolution

10.In May 2008 the then Minister for Employment and Learning, Sir Reg Empey MLA, established a steering group comprising representation from CBI Northern Ireland, the Federation of Small Businesses, the Northern Ireland Committee of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, the Labour Relations Agency and the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland, to oversee the pre-consultation and public consultation phases. The steering group canvassed a wide range of opinion on the existing arrangements through engagement with experts in the employment relations arena and the establishment of expert user panels from the human resources, legal, trade union and community advice disciplines.

11.The Department also commissioned a piece of qualitative research to learn from the practical experiences of the various parties involved in dispute resolution processes. It additionally gave evidence to the Northern Ireland Assembly’s Employment and Learning Committee which conducted its own review of workplace dispute resolution arrangements, taking evidence from a range of key stakeholders. The Committee published its findings in June 2009.

12.In May 2009 the Department sought views on policy proposals for improving systems for resolving disputes that arise in the workplace. Consultation ran for thirteen weeks and closed on Friday 4 September 2009. The consultation document included a partial regulatory impact assessment and referenced the findings of preliminary equality and human rights impact assessments. The impact assessment process also took account of potential social inclusion and health impacts.

13.The Department received 38 responses to the consultation, 33 of which contained substantive comment. An analysis of the consultation responses was published in November 2009 with the Department’s policy response to the public consultation published in April 2010. A final impact assessment was also prepared. Departmental officials briefed the Employment and Learning Committee on the policy proposals on 20 January 2010.

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