Employment law will be reviewed in 2012.
While many dates are not fixed, one major change to go ahead will be that from April 2012, employees need two years’ continuous employment in a job to bring a claim for unfair dismissal (not one year as it stands currently). Tribunal procedure changes have also been announced:
- Unfair dismissal claims will be heard by a lone judge, not a panel
- The limit the deposits that tribunal claimants pay will increase from £500 to £1,000. Costs limits will rise from £10,000 to £20,000.
- The current practice of asking witnesses to read out statements to the tribunal will stop, and witness statement will usually be taken “as read”. Subpoenaed witness expenses will be paid for by the parties who call them into the tribunal. The judge may order the losing party to reimburse the successful party for witness attendance costs.
Tribunals will be able to levy cash fines on employers who breach employment legislation in a way that has “aggravated features”, which are not defined but are likely to be non-accidental. Penalties will normally be equal to half of the total award made by the tribunal in that case (subject to a minimum of £100 and an overall cap of £5,000) and are payable to the state, not the ex-employee (s).
Other changes are planned, but not in force yet. They include introducing compulsory mediation and an increase in use of compromise (aka settlement) agreements, including agreements for Equality Act claims. In addition, the Government is considering special dismissal arrangements for firms with under ten employees, where unfair is replaced with compensated no-fault dismissal (compensation to be equivalent to redundancy, it is thought), but these changes are not yet certain.