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The scheme differs from previous arbitration schemes in that it covers claims in all employment rights jurisdictions, including unfair dismissal, monies properly payable, breach of contract, and discrimination. Previous arbitration schemes were limited to claims for unfair dismissal and flexible working complaints so that, for example, cases with a claim for unfair dismissal and outstanding notice pay could not be heard by an arbitrator.
The scheme has been introduced as part of the fundamental review of the existing systems for resolving workplace disputes in Northern Ireland, with Stephen Ferry, the Minister for Employment and Learning, stating that:
“A consistent message from the public consultation process was the need to provide a viable alternative to industrial tribunals. That is not a criticism of the tribunal system, but a recognition that not all disputes require or are suited to a formal legal determination.”
The scheme provides a non–adversarial, non–legalistic and informal means of resolving claims. Hearings will normally be arranged within two months of the claimant’s and respondent’s agreement to use arbitration, and will usually be concluded in less than a day.
Arbitration decisions will be based on the general principles of fairness and best practice in employment relations, including the principles referred to in relevant Codes of Practice and will only be appealable in specified circumstances.
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