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As of 6 April 2012, the unfair dismissal qualifying period will increase from one to two years. Meanwhile, tribunal costs awards are also set to rise in April from £10,000 to £20,000 (the maximum amount was previously increased from £500 to £10,000 in 2001). The amount of a deposit order a tribunal will be able to order a party to pay will also increase from £500 to £1,000. Deposit orders are granted by employment judges at pre-hearing reviews. They are made where the judge considers that a claim has little reasonable prospect of success and require a party to pay a deposit in order to continue to take part in the proceedings.
There will also be some changes to the way in which tribunals operate from April. Witness statements will be ‘taken as read'. This means witnesses will not have to read out their statements at tribunal hearings, which previously they were required to do. In addition, parties will have to bear their own witness expenses (previously travelling costs and other allowances could be claimed from the state). Finally, judges will sit alone in unfair dismissal cases where previously they would sit with two lay members. Progress on this change will be reviewed after a year.
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