Government Plans Major Overhaul of Employment Law

After the many rumours and press releases in recent weeks, Vince Cable, the Business Secretary, announced the Government’s proposals for what may be the most radical changes to employment law for decades.

As has been reported, the main proposals are:

  • To increase the unfair dismissal qualifying period to two years
  • To introduce a compulsory lodging of all claims through Acas, for an attempt at mediation, before they can be lodged with the tribunal
  • To conduct a consultation in the new year on the introduction of protected conversations, with the proviso that they will not extend to protect discriminatory acts
  • To simplify compromise agreements
  • To introduce different fees for different types of tribunal claims (a consultation on this will be published shortly)
  • To improve the efficiency of obtaining CRB checks, so that from 2013 they are instantly accessible online
  • To conduct a fundamental ‘root and branch’ review of the employment tribunal rules of procedure, to be led by Mr Justice Underhill (who steps down as President of the Employment Appeals Tribunal at the end of next month)
  • To review the Agency Worker Regulations 2010 in 18 months’ time with a focus on looking at opportunities to simplify it
  • To simplify the 17 pieces of National Minimum Wage legislation into one set of Regulations

Furthermore, the Government is proposing to seek views on the following:

  • Reducing the minimum period for redundancy consultation to 60, 45 or 30 days
  • Simplifying the current TUPE rules
  • Introducing ‘no-fault dismissals’ for micro-business (i.e. those with less than 10 employees)
  • Closing the ‘loophole’ in whistle blowing cases whereby a complaint about breach of an employment contract can count as a qualifying disclosure
  • Responding and reporting on the review on sickness absence by Dame Carol Black and David Frost published on 21st November
  • Creating a ‘rapid resolution scheme’ as a quicker and cheaper alternative to tribunal for more straightforward matters such as holiday pay disputes
  • ‘Modernising’ maternity and paternity leave – with emphasis on greater involvement for fathers

In his speech, Dr Cable said: “We know that disputes at work cost time and money, reduce productivity and can distract employers from the day-to-day running of their business. Tribunals should be a last resort for workplace problems which is why we want disputes to be solved in other ways.”

We would welcome your comments and views on the above – not least so that we can respond to the forthcoming consultations.

If you have any questions on how these proposals may affect your business, please contact Adele Martins on 0207 317 6719 or at [email protected] or Susan Thompson on 0207 317 6750 or at [email protected].