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Law for Business

Knowhow - guidance - precedents

12 SEP 2012

Employment law reform

The government has made further announcements on its planned reforms to employment law. The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) has also published the government's response to the consultation on resolving workplace disputes. Vince Cable, the Business Secretary, claims that the reforms will cut unnecessary demands on business while safeguarding workers' rights and will be the most radical made to the employment law system for decades. BIS announced that of the 159 regulations examined in the employment theme of the Red Tape Challenge, more than 70 regulations, over 40%, are to be merged, simplified or scrapped.

The main employment law reforms proposed are:

●        increasing the qualifying period for unfair dismissal to two years from 6 April 2012;

●        making it compulsory to lodge employment claims through ACAS before they proceed to the tribunal, to promote mediation;

●        amending s 147 of the Equality Act 2010 to clarify the enforceability of compromise agreements;

●        removing complaints about breach of employment contracts from whistleblowing protection;

●        introducing financial penalties (payable to the Exchequer) for employers who breach employment rights;

●        allowing employment judges to sit alone in unfair dismissal cases;

●        making CRB checks portable;

●        ‘modernising' maternity and paternity regulations and placing greater emphasis on fathers' involvement;

●        increasing deposit orders and costs awards.

More extreme proposals, such as allowing compensated no-fault dismissals for which employers would not have to give a reason, have not been included and furthers restrictions to the right to claim unfair dismissal have also been left out.

The government is now launching follow-up action by asking for:

●        consultation on introducing ‘protected conversations', allowing employers to have frank discussions with their staff without fear that these could be referred to in tribunal proceedings;

●        a call for evidence on reducing the minimum period for collective redundancy consultation to 60, 45 or 30 days;

●        a fundamental review of the rules of procedure that govern Employment Tribunals, to be carried out by Underhill J (the retiring president of the EAT).

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