IMMINENT CHANGES TO EMPLOYMENT LAW19th Apr 2012
All employees who start employment on or after 6 April 2012 will have to accrue two years of continuous service before they can bring a claim of unfair dismissal, as a result of changes to the qualifying rules for ordinary unfair dismissal.
Currently the qualifying period is 51 weeks' continuous service. Employees who started work prior to 6 April 2012 will still be subject to the 51 weeks' qualifying period for bringing such a claim. Also, employees will continue to have "day 1" rights to bring claims of automatically unfair dismissal where, for example, they are dismissed for "blowing the whistle", trade union activities or health and safety reasons, and to bring discrimination claims under the Equality Act.
Employment Tribunal procedures will also change on 6 April 2012, with employment judges being able to hear straightforward unfair dismissal claims alone (rather than as a panel of three) which should reduce waiting times for hearings. Witness statements will no longer be read out during the hearing to save time, and Tribunals will be able to oblige a claimant to pay a deposit of up to £1,000 to pursue his or her claim (currently the maximum deposit is £500) and may award up to £20,000 costs against the losing party (currently £10,000) if the claimant or their representative have acted unreasonably.
These changes are set in the context of government proposals to make sweeping employment law reforms. We are still in the "consultation" stage in relation to these proposals and a snapshot of the government's latest position (March 2012) is set out in Employment Law Review - Annual update 2012. We'll keep you updated on future developments.
As always please feel free to contact Neil Andrews for further information or with any employment queries on 01202 673011.