Coalition’s turn to Resolve Workplace Disputes
The Labour Government had a go with their widely discredited Statutory Dispute Resolution Procedures (these were repealed following Michael Gibbons’ review), and now it’s the Coalition Government’s turn.
“Resolving workplace disputes: A consultation” states that the Government wants to do more to support and encourage employers & employees to resolve disputes earlier, where possible also continuing the employment relationship.
Among the most significant changes being considered are:
- the qualifying period for employees before they can bring an unfair dismissal claim – currently one year, the proposals would change this to two years (although some claims will still require no minimum qualifying period – automatically unfair dismissal cases);
- more flexibility for judges, increasing the circumstances when they will have the power to strike out weaker cases;
- increasing the deposit and costs limits for weak & vexatious claims – the increased amounts would be £1,000 (for deposits) and £20,000 (for costs) – and changing the tests on the ability of a party to pay a deposit;
- extending the jurisdictions where judges can sit alone to include some unfair dismissal cases;
- claims to be submitted to ACAS before going to the employment tribunals;
- parties & witnesses to lose the payments currently available to cover travel & other expenses;
- general interlocutory work (the management of the proceedings) currently administered by judges to be delegated to a qualified legal officer;
- a fees mechanism requiring the parties to a case to contribute towards the cost of running the tribunals service;
- a provision for tribunals to levy financial penalties of between £100 & £5,000 on employers who are found to have breached an employee’s rights (these penalties would be payable to the Exchequer, not the claimant).
The consultation will remain open until 20 April 2011, following which the Government will publish its response on how it intends to proceed.
As there may be financial penalties against employers that fail to follow the relevant Code of Practice or legislation, it will be more important than ever that employers take advice on their HR procedures, ensuring their policies are fully compliant with the law. Outsourcing your HR, or even having the services of a helpline to guide employers on the correct steps to take, will be all the more important if these changes are brought in. Employment Law Clinic’s services will continue to meet all the needs employers may have to deal with all your employment matters; early preparation ahead of the reforms will certainly help employers & employees get used to new policies & procedures, and these could be prepared bespoke for your business well in advance of the changes being implemented. Contact Employment Law Clinic to find out how we can help.
Alongside the reforms to the tribunals system, the Government has launched a new Employer’s Charter, intended to dispel some of the myths that surround HR & employment law, a brief reference point to help employers understand what they can & can’t do.