Employment Tribunal and Law Reform

The Government has recently announced its proposals to overhaul the employment tribunal system and to take further steps to help businesses by reducing levels of employment law bureaucracy. The announcement was made following the Government’s earlier consultation on ‘Resolving Workplace Disputes’ and the Red Tape Challenge review of employment law. It is hoped that these measures will help encourage growth and employment levels in the economy.

TRIBUNAL REFORM:

Fees for Tribunal claims

The Government has announced that, in future, individuals will have to pay a fee when lodging a tribunal claim. These fees have still to be clarified but are likely to be in two parts: an initial fee (possibly £250) to lodge a claim and a second fee (possibly £1,000) if the claim is to proceed to a full hearing.

Claims to be lodged with ACAS

The Government has also proposed that nearly all employment tribunal claims will have to be lodged with ACAS so that an attempt can be made to resolve them before they enter the tribunal system. ACAS will then have an initial one month in which to offer non-compulsory early conciliation. Recent figures from ACAS show that 74 per cent of pre-claim conciliation referrals resulted in no subsequent claim being made to an employment tribunal.

Dealing with weak cases

In response to employers’ concerns that the employment tribunal system allows employees with weak claims to impose unreasonable burdens on employers, and in addition to fees for Claimants, the Government has confirmed that it will strengthen the existing power to require a Claimant to pay a deposit of up to £500 as a condition of being permitted to continue,  and increase the maximum deposit to £1000.  It will also increase the current cap on cost awards (in the Tribunal) limits from £10,000 to £20,000.

Shortening tribunal hearings

In order to try and reduce the time and cost of tribunal hearings, the Government has announced that unfair dismissal cases will normally be heard by a single employment judge, rather than by a full panel made up of a judge and two non-legal members.

EMPLOYMENT LAW REFORM

Time limits for Unfair Dismissal 

The Government has confirmed that the unfair dismissal qualifying period will be increased from one year to two years from April 2012.

Financial penalties for employers

The Government has agreed to introduce potential financial penalties for employers found to have breached employment rights. These will however be discretionary and if imposed, are likely to be between £100 and £5000. 

Dismissal

The Government is also considering ways of making the dismissal process quicker, clearer and fairer to both Employees and Employers.  

Families

A commitment has also been made to make changes to parental leave and maternity leave provisions

This article was written by Karl Barnes a solicitor in our Employment Department.

December 2011