The government has stated that it intends to bring into force a number of changes to employment law in 2012. This article briefly sets out the changes your business needs to be aware of.
April 2012 changes
Unfair dismissal qualifying period to be increased
The qualifying period for unfair dismissal claims will be increased from one to two years. It is unclear at this stage whether the new qualifying period will apply to existing employees or only to new joiners. There will continue to be no qualifying period for discrimination and whistleblowing claims.
- Deposit orders. The amount of the deposit a tribunal will be able to order a party to pay will increase from £500 to £1,000.
- Cost awards. The maximum amount of costs a tribunal can award (without referring the case to the county court for detailed assessment) will increase from £10,000 to £20,000.
- Witnesses. Tribunals will be given powers to direct parties to bear the costs of witness attendance, including the costs of witnesses called by the successful party. The government will withdraw state-funded expenses.
Future changes: no date yet announced
- Claimants will be required to submit details of their dispute to Acas first, at which point they will be offered pre-claim conciliation for a period of one month. If conciliation is refused by either party, or is unsuccessful, the claimant will be able to go ahead and present their claim to the employment tribunal.
- If the parties enter into conciliation, this will “stop the clock” on the limitation period to present the claim to the employment tribunal. The claimant will have one month after the conclusion of conciliation to present their claim to the employment tribunal.
Financial penalties for employers
- The government intends to introduce financial penalties for employers who lose at an employment tribunal. The penalties are expected to equate to half of the total award made by the employment tribunal, with a minimum threshold of £100 and a maximum cap of £5,000.
- Where a non-financial award is made, the employment tribunal will be able to ascribe a monetary value.
- The penalty will be reduced by 50% if it is paid within 21 days.
- The levy of a financial penalty will be at the employment tribunal’s discretion; it will not be automatic.