Key dates to watch in 2012

The coming year is anticipated to be a busy one for employment lawyers and HR professionals alike.  Not only are further redundancies rumoured but also significant changes to employment law and regulatory processes are predicted as the Government endeavours to reduce the regulatory burden facing the country’s businesses.  Add to that the inevitable challenges that the Olympic Games will cause in terms of absence, lateness, and holiday requests – and there will be lots to keep us busy!  Here are a few of the highlights:

January

  • Call for evidence on collective redundancy consultation (to explore the consequences of reducing the 90 day consultation period to 60 / 45 / 30 days) ends on 31 January.  The information collected will be used to formulate formal consultation proposals.

1 February

  • New Tribunal award limits to take effect. (Unfair dismissal compensation will increase from £68,400 to £72,300).

6 March

  • Closure of the consultation on the proposals to introduce fees in Employment Tribunals and the Employment Appeal Tribunal.

April

  • Qualifying period for unfair dismissal to increase to 2 years (to be confirmed).
  • Unpaid parental leave to increase to 4 months.
  • Working Time Regulations to be amended to permit holiday to be carried forward (limited application).
  • Maternity Pay (Paternity and Adoption) to increase to £135.45.
  • SSP to increase to £85.85.
  • Maximum Employment Tribunal costs awards will increase from £10,000 to £20,000.
  • Witness statements will be taken as read in the Tribunal unless a judge directs otherwise.
  • Judges will sit alone on Unfair Dismissal cases (i.e. no lay members).

October

  • National Minimum Wage to increase (recommendations due in February).
  • Pensions Auto-enrolment to commence (larger employers only) – employers in GB will be required to automatically enrol eligible staff into a pension scheme.  Implementation over 4 years with larger employers to be affected first.

Developments on the Horizon – no dates confirmed. 

  • Compulsory early ACAS conciliation of all Employment Tribunal claims.
  • Whistle blowing Regulations to be amended to exclude disclosure about breaches of employment contracts.
  • Review of ACAS Code on Disciplinary and Grievance procedures – with the aim of simplification.
  • Financial penalties for employers that lose at Tribunal – at consultation the penalty levels proposed were half of the total award (subject to a £100 minimum and £5,000 maximum).
  • Consultation on the ability to have ‘protected conversations’ with staff regarding employment issues without risking claims of dismissal or constructive dismissal.
  • Consultation on a rapid resolution scheme for low value / straightforward claims as an alternative to full Employment Tribunal proceedings (in addition to ACAS?).
  • Consultation to consider the use of compromise agreements, and simplifying the format of them.
  • Consultation on removing the 3rd Party harassment provisions from the Equality Act 2010.
  • Review of dismissal procedures for micro-firms (10 or fewer employees) and consideration / consultation on “compensated no-fault dismissals”.