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/ 24 Nov 2011

Back to the Future

The government this week in a speech by Vince Cable has trailed some proposals for significant amendments to employment law. The main proposals are:-
• Unfair dismissal qualifying period to be increased to 2 years. Since the concept of unfair dismissal was introduced in the 1970’s the qualifying period has changed from 6 months to 1 year then to 2 years then back to 1 year and now back to 2 years. This may be challengeable on the grounds of indirect sexual discrimination given that more women than men have career breaks for child care and statistically more women than men may fall into the bracket of service between 1 to 2 years.
• All claims to the Employment Tribunal will first go to ACAS, for an attempt at mediation. We assume that there will be no increase in resources to ACAS and so a large question must be raised against their ability to cope with this extra duty given their existing responsibilities.
• Consultation on the introduction of protected conversations, with the proviso that they will not extend to protect discriminatory acts. The intention of this is for an employer to explore the possibility of terminating an employee’s employment perhaps under the terms of a compromise agreement without that proposal then being used as evidence in a subsequent constructive dismissal claim.
• A call for evidence, with a view to consultation, on reducing minimum period for redundancy consultation to 60, 45 or 30 days. These minimum periods of consultation only apply to larger scale redundancies.
Some other proposals have not been flagged up before. These include:
• Options for a ‘rapid resolution scheme’, to enable simple claims to be settled within three months.
• Financial penalties to be introduced on employers who breach employment rights, payable to the Exchequer, subject to a discretion exercisable by Employment Judges
• A fundamental review of Employment Tribunal rules of procedure, includes changes to costs and deposit orders.
• Employment Judges to sit alone in unfair dismissal cases
• CRB checks to be portable, so no need for a fresh application when moving jobs
• Maternity and paternity leave to be ‘modernised’, with emphasis on greater involvement for fathers
It would seem the government is still considering no-fault compensation for dismissals by “micro-businesses”. This is obviously a very controversial issue and was not mentioned in Vince Cable’s speech. The government is to consult further on this proposal.
For any queries, advice or representation (as an Employer or Employee) on employment law issues please contact one of our employment law solicitors here at Hanne & Co on 020 7228 0017 or email info@hanne.co.uk

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