Common Sense Employment Law Changes

Posted on: 24.11.2011    09:45:40

Business secretary Vince Cable has announced what he called “the most radical reform to the employment law system for decades”. Skills Provision welcome these initiatives as over due rebalancing the relationship between employers and employees.

During a speech to EEF, the manufacturers organisation, Cable announced the results of a consultation on resolving workplace disputes and the Red Tape Challenge review of employment law.

The package of measures will include an overhaul of employment tribunals, which Cable says will deliver £40 million a year in benefits to employers. Ministers will also start a call for evidence on whether the 90-day minimum consultation period for collective redundancies should be reduced.

The Government will launch a call for evidence on two proposals on dismissal laws. It will seek views on a proposal to introduce compensated no fault dismissal for micro firms, with fewer than 10 employees. It will also look at ways to simplify existing dismissal processes, including potentially working with ACAS to make changes to their Code, or offering supplementary guidance for small businesses.

The Ministry of Justice will shortly publish a consultation on the introduction of fees for anyone wishing to take a claim to an employment tribunal. The consultation will seek views on two options. The first proposes a system that involves payment of an initial fee to lodge a claim, and a second fee to take that claim to hearing. The second option proposes introducing a £30,000 threshold, so those seeking an award above this level will pay more to bring a claim.

Of the 159 regulations examined in the employment theme of the Red Tape Challenge more than 70 regulations are to be merged, simplified or scrapped. The Government will:

  • Publish a call for evidence on proposals to simplify the TUPE rules
  • Close a whistleblowing case law ‘loophole’ which allows employees to blow the whistle about their own personal work contract.
  • Merge 17 National Minimum Wage regulations into one set
  • Consult in the spring to streamline the current regulatory regime for the recruitment sector.
  • Create a universally portable CRB check that can be viewed by employers instantly online, from early 2013.

As part of the response to the Resolving Workplace Disputes consultation, the Government has committed to:

  • Requiring all employment disputes to go to the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS) to be offered pre-claim conciliation before going to a tribunal and from April 2012 increasing the qualification period for unfair dismissal from one to two years.
  • Publishing a consultation in the new year on ‘protected conversations’ which allows employers to discuss issues like retirement or poor performance in an open manner with staff – without this being used in any subsequent tribunal claims.
  • Appointing Mr Justice Underhill to lead an independent review of the existing rules of procedure governing employment tribunals. This review will look to address concerns that they have become increasingly complex and inefficient over time and are no longer fit for purpose.
  • A further consultation on measures to simplify compromise agreements, which will be renamed ‘settlement agreements’.
  • Announcing plans to consider how and whether to develop a ‘rapid resolution’ scheme which will offer a quicker and cheaper alternative to determination at an employment tribunal. Any proposals would be the subject of a consultation.
  • Modifying the formulae for up-rating employment tribunal awards and statutory redundancy payments to round to the nearest pound. The Government says it anticipates this move will give a direct net saving to business of £5.4. million each year.

This can only be a  glimpse into future law but the impact is far reaching and needs to be understood by every business owner and employer.


Author: Chris Slay

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