The Government proposals feature an increase to a minimum of two years for the qualifying period for unfair dismissal claims. In addition to the new two year period claimants will be required to pay a fee in order to lodge a tribunal claim.
The Government announced that the proposed changes to employment law are intended to 'ensure maximum flexibility while protecting fairness and providing the competitive environment required for enterprise and growth'.
The reforms will be seen as employer biased by employees as the most radical of the proposals is to increase the qualifying period for unfair dismissal claims. This is intended to engender confidence amongst businesses when considering recruitment and provide a larger window of opportunity to assess if a new candidate has worked out. Clearly what they don't want is it to be a green light for sacking staff unfairly.
This move alone will potentially see almost 5,000 fewer unfair dismissal claims per year.
The other proposals include:
• requiring 'service users' (i.e. parties) to contribute towards the cost of running employment tribunals, and the Employment Appeal Tribunal, by paying fees.
• requiring all claims to be submitted to Acas before a tribunal to allow Acas a period of up to a month to offer pre-claim conciliation.
All too often unrepresented claimants fail to appreciate the processes involved in going to tribunal and as a consequence waste time and resources whilst they are brought up to speed.
• introducing automatic financial penalties for employers found to have breached employment rights, on top of the ordinary compensation already payable. The penalty would generally be half the amount of the total award made to the claimant, and would be payable to the Exchequer
• extending the jurisdictions where employment judges can sit alone to include unfair dismissal where questions of fact can be analysed within a framework of law that is relatively uncomplicated or settled
• removing the general requirement for tripartite panels in the EAT, allowing more efficient use of lay member resources
• reviewing the formula for calculating employment tribunal awards and statutory redundancy payment limits.
This consultation will close on 20 April 2011.
The Government will consider the responses to the consultation and then publish a Government response, setting out how it intends to proceed. Some of the measures set out in the consultation document would require primary legislation to implement, and if the Government decides to take these forward, it will do so when Parliamentary time allows. Other measures could be taken forward under existing powers to make secondary legislation or rules, subject to further consultation where appropriate.
For the full consultation document Click Here
Samuel Phillips Employment Team