Employment Law Reform

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After all the leaking and counter-leaking between the different factions of the Government, Business Secretary Vince Cable has announced the Government’s proposals for what he says is the biggest shake up of employment law for decades. At the same time, the government has also published its Response to the Consultation on Resolving Workplace Disputes.

The main items are:-

  • compulsory lodging of all employment claims through ACAS, for an attempt at mediation, before they can be issued in the Employment Tribunal
  • unfair dismissal qualifying period to increase to two years
  • consultation on the introduction of protected conversations, with the restriction that they will not extend to protect discriminatory acts
  • a call for evidence, with a view to consultation, on reducing minimum period for redundancy consultation to 60, 45 or even 30 days
  • suggestions for a ‘rapid resolution scheme’, to enable simple employment claims to be settled within three months
  • amendment to s147 of Equality Act 2010, to clarify the dispute over whether compromise agreements can be used to settle discrimination claims
  • complaints about breach of employment contract to be taken out of the whistle blowing legislation
  • fines to be introduced on employers who breach employment rights, payable to the Treasury, subject to a discretion to be exercisable by Employment Judges
  • Employment Judges to sit alone, but only in unfair dismissal cases
  • CRB checks to be ‘portable’, so no need for a fresh application when moving jobs
  • A further consultation on measures to simplify compromise agreements, which will be renamed ‘settlement agreements’.
  • maternity and paternity leave to be ‘modernised’, to emphasise greater involvement for fathers
  • a fundamental review of employment tribunal rules of procedure, to be led by Mr Justice Underhill (who will retire as President of the EAT at the end of the year), to include changes to costs and deposit orders
  • 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 Government has also stated that it is still looking at the option of compensated, no-fault dismissals for very small businesses (but it is not publishing any proposals as yet) and will consult further.