Employment law and tribunal changes: what’s what?

Employment Law has always been something of a ‘political football’. Changes are more often and more radical than any other area of the law, and the pace has only picked up since the Coalition came to power and Vince Cable made further announcements in September.

As well as changes that are going to be made, there has been a lot of press speculation about what might or might not be changed, and some particularly controversial ideas put forward by the venture capitalist (and Conservative donor) Adrian Beecroft. We’ve put together a list to give you a better idea of what’s in store for employment law and tribunals.

What is

Two year unfair dismissal qualifying period

This came into effect on 6th April 2012 for anyone who started employment on or after that date. There’s always the possibility that this will change in the future – in the past the period has been set at six months and one year.

Increased Tribunal powers

Since 6th April 2012, Employment Judges have been able to order Claimant deposits of up to £1,000, which is an increase from the previous maximum of £500.

Employment Judges sitting alone

In the past, almost all cases came before an Employment Judge and two ‘lay members’, but since 6th April 2012 unfair dismissal claims are heard by a judge alone.

Statements taken as read

To speed up the hearing, the Employment Tribunal now read the witness’ statement in advance and the witness goes straight into questioning.

New pension regime with auto enrolment and mandatory contributions

This began on 1st October 2012, although only for very large employers at the outset.

What will be

Fees in Employment Tribunals

This is scheduled for introduction in summer 2013. There’ll be two lines of claim: Level One and Level Two. Level One claims will include straightforward appeals, such as unlawful deduction, and will carry an issuing fee of £160 and a hearing fee of £230. Level Two claims include pretty much anything else, including unfair dismissal and discrimination, and will charge a £250 issuing fee and £950 hearing fee.

Limiting unfair dismissal compensation

Vince Cable recently announced that it’s the Government’s preference to decide whether the unfair dismissal cap should be lowered, which is currently set at £72,300. This could be set at somewhere between one and three times the average annual earnings or a number of week’s pay not exceeding 52. Although this isn’t law yet, it’s very likely that the Coalition will take this forward in some form or another – when that will be is anyone’s guess.

Protected conversations and settlement agreements

These are not yet law, but both have been mentioned widely and will undoubtedly form part of the Government’s thinking. Protected conversations will be just like ‘without prejudice’ conversations except they won’t require there to be an existing dispute. A settlement agreement is likely to be a simplified form of compromise agreement.

What will never be

‘No fault dismissals’ for ‘micro-firms’

One of the more controversial ideas from the Beecroft report, Vince Cable confirmed in September that they won’t be taking this forward.

Review of the TUPE rules

The Government is promising (or is that threatening?) to look at the TUPE rules on collective consultation. As far as the TUPE is concerned, the fact that our own TUPE Regulations implement a European Directive means that there’s little scope for movement.

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