Radical reform of employment law announced
29 November 2011
The government has announced proposals for what it describes as "the most radical reform to the employment law system for decades".
Details of the proposals are set out below. Businesses will welcome many of them, but it remains to be seen how they will be implemented and it may be necessary to plan for some significant changes in employment law in the next year or so.
The government has asked for evidence in a number of areas and this may provide an opportunity to submit evidence to the government with a view to affecting policy.
The proposals set out in the government's Response to the Consultation on Resolving Workplace Disputes include:
- an increase in the qualification period for unfair dismissal claims from one year to two years, from April 2012
- a consultation on measures to simplify compromise agreements, including changing the name to "settlement agreements"
- a consultation in the new year on "protected conversations" in order to allow employers to have open and frank discussions with staff about retirement or poor performance without this being used at any subsequent employment tribunal claim
- a requirement for all potential employment claims to be lodged with Acas for conciliation before a employment tribunal claim can be lodged
- an independent review, led by Mr Justice Underhill, of employment tribunal rules of procedure with a view to a revised and streamlined procedural code being recommended by the end of April 2012
- a consultation on how and whether to develop a "rapid resolution" scheme to provide a quick and cheap alternative to employment tribunals based only on papers and no oral hearing for straight-forward claims, such as claims for holiday pay
- an introduction of financial penalties, payable to the Exchequer, for employers that are found to have breached employment rights.
The Business Secretary, Vince Cable announced the proposals in his speech to the manufacturers' organisation, the EEF, and at the same time he also announced:
- a call for evidence on the effectiveness of the TUPE regulations and how they may be improved
- a call for evidence regarding the rules governing statutory consultation for collective redundancies, with a view to consultation on reducing the minimum period for consultation in large scale redundancies from 90 days to 60, 45 or 30 days
- plans to amend the whistleblowing legislation to close a "loophole" which allows an employee to bring a whistleblowing claim about breaches to their own employment contract
- plans to examine ways to slim down and simplify the existing dismissal processes, including potentially changing the Acas Code of Practice on Disciplinary and Grievance procedures
- a consultation regarding the introduction of employment tribunal fees. One option would require an initial fee to lodge a claim and a second fee to proceed to hearing. The second option would require those seeking an award above £30,000 to pay more to bring a claim
- views would be sought on the introduction of a compensated "no fault" dismissal for micro firms with fewer than 10 employees
- a new portable CRB check that can be viewed by employers instantly online from early 2013 so that employees will not have to get a new check for each new job
- a commitment to extending the right to request flexible working to all employees and to modernising maternity leave so that it becomes shared and flexible parental leave
a consolidation of the national minimum wage legislation
- a consultation in the spring on streamlining the regulatory regime for the recruitment sector
If you would like more information, or specific advice, on the impact of this announcement, please contact Roger Bull on 0117 939 2000 or email firstname.lastname@example.org, or contact the lawyer at Burges Salmon with whom you usually deal.