Since December 2011 we’ve been reporting on a raft of Government ideas, initiatives, leaks and calls for evidence and consultation relating to existing or new employment laws. As things have become clearer over the summer, here is a round-up of what’s already happened, what’s round the corner, or what has been dropped!
- The Government altered the continuous service period needed with an employer for an employee to be able to claim unfair dismissal to 2 years from 6th April 2012 (for those starting work on or after that date – it stays at 1 year for those employed before this date).
- The Government consulted on ‘compensated no-fault dismissals’ for micro-businesses employing under 10 employees – allowing staff to be dismissed with a basic ‘redundancy’ pay and notice period. This was an idea in the Beecroft Report that we reported on in June. The Government confirmed in June 2012 that this will not go ahead, however consultation has taken place for a simplified dismissal process for small businesses – details are awaited.
- The Government want to slim down existing dismissal procedures by making changes to the ACAS Code of Practice on Disciplinary and Grievance Procedures. No further news on this.
- The Government will create a ‘standard’ text for Compromise Agreements and re-name them Settlement Agreements. Compromise agreements are currently used by businesses to settle employment disputes without going to Court. They are legally binding agreements made between the employer and Employee where the Employee agrees to leave the Company for a financial compensation but at the same time waiving their employment rights. The change of name from Compromise Agreements to Settlement Agreements is currently progressing through parliament, however, the exact details of the new Agreements are still to be consulted upon.
- In 2012, the Government consulted on the introduction of a system of “protected conversations” that would allow either employers or employees to initiate a discussion about an employment issue “at any time…as a way of resolving the matter without fear”. These measures are designed to reduce bureaucracy and would not be admissible conversations at an Employment Tribunal. The Government have however confirmed that such conversations will not shield employers from discrimination claims and would not apply to automatically unfair dismissals. This is currently progressing through Parliament – protected conversations could be held about termination of an employees employment under a settlement agreement (above).
The Tribunal System
- The Government wanted a “fundamental review” of the Employment Tribunal Rules of Procedure. This resulted in laws from April 2012 that allow a Tribunal Judge to order claimants to pay a deposit of up to £1,000 if they believe the claim is weak. Also that Employment Judges will be able to take unfair dismissal cases alone. The Government is now consulting on further ways to resolve straightforward employment disputes more quickly and cheaply.
- The Ministry of Justice published a consultation on the introduction of tribunal fees where users of the system would have to pay fees in order to encourage them to “consider seriously the validity of their claim” and encourage alternative solutions such as mediation. The consultation has finished and changes from Summer 2013 will come into force that mean claimants will need to pay either £160 or £250 to start a claim and pay a further fee for the Tribunal to go ahead of £230 or £950. These two levels of claim will depend on the complexity of the case – Level 1 claims will include unlawful deductions from wages, holiday pay and redundancy payments. Level 2 claims will include discrimination, equal pay and unfair dismissal. The Government are still consulting now as to whether people on low incomes may not be required to pay the fees in full.
- Also under the proposed changes to the tribunal system, all employment disputes would be required to go to ACAS for pre-claim conciliation before proceeding to a tribunal. The basic early conciliation period will be one month. Where early conciliation is refused or is unsuccessful the claimant will be allowed to lodge his or her claim with the tribunal. This is currently progressing through Parliament.
The Government is currently consulting on the rules governing statutory consultations on collective redundancies. In particular, it wishes to reduce the current 90-day minimum consultation period, where 100 or more employees are involved, to 45 or 30 days and also introduce a non-statutory code of practice. Consultation closes in mid September.
The Government has consulted on the effectiveness of the TUPE regulations and how they might be improved. The Government is “concerned” that some businesses believe the TUPE regulations are overly bureaucratic. Awaiting the Government’s response.
The Government has consulted on the current whistle-blowing legislation to stop employees from being able to “blow the whistle” about breaches to their own employment contracts, which it says is not something that the legislation was designed to achieve. The Government is amending the law so that disclosure must be in ‘the public interest’ and this is currently progressing through Parliament.
Working Time Regulations
The Government has consulted on proposed changes to the Working Time Regulations in relation to carry-over of annual leave – see our recent article here on what is expected. The Government are expected to amend the WTR laws soon but their response to the consultation is still awaited.
The Government has said it is committed to extend the right to request flexible working, and it is believed that flexible working measures will be extended to all employees. However we are still awaiting the Government official response.
Maternity/Parental Leave and Pay
The Government say they are committed to “modernising” maternity leave so that it becomes “shared and flexible parental leave”. The Government have confirmed that the Children and Families Bill will give parents access to an entirely new system of leave. More details to follow and this is expected to be implemented in April 2015.
Third Party Harassment Liability
The Government is consulting on proposals to repeal the third-party harassment provisions in the Equality Act. This currently allows employers to be liable for the harassment of their staff by a 3rd party if they have not taken reasonable steps to prevent it and the employer knew the employee had been harassed on at least 2 previous occasions.
Taxation of Controlling Persons
See our article here for more details about this – the Government has consulted about introducing this provision to ensure that income tax and national insurance contributions of a ‘controlling’ person is deduced at source by their engaging organization. Awaiting their response. It has been proposed that contracts under 6 months will not be included in the proposals and those with a day rate of under £220 will not be included either.
Workline is supported by Employment Lawyers Goodman Derrick LLP. Please note that the advice given on this website and by our Advisors is guidance only and cannot be taken as an authoritative interpretation of the law. It can also not be seen as specific advice for individual cases. Please also note that there are differences in legislation in Northern Ireland.
Photo by photon_de
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