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Government announces employment law reforms

The Government has announced a package of reforms to the employment law system. Changes will include an overhaul of employment tribunals, which is expected to deliver £40 million a year in benefits to employers.

 

Proposals resulting from the Red Tape Challenge include a call for evidence on the consultation rules for collective redundancies and whether the current 90 day minimum period for more than 100 redundancies can be reduced.

 

The Ministry of Justice will shortly publish a consultation on the introduction of fees for anyone wishing to take a claim to an employment tribunal. The consultation will seek views on two options. The first proposes a system that involves payment of an initial fee to lodge a claim, and a second fee to take that claim to hearing. The second option proposes introducing a £30,000 threshold, so those seeking an award above this level will pay more to bring a claim.

 

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 Government will:

 

  • Publish a call for evidence on proposals to simplify the Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) - TUPE - rules which many businesses say are too complex and bureaucratic.
  • Close a whistleblowing case law loophole which allows employees to blow the whistle about their own personal work contract.
  • Merge 17 National Minimum Wage regulations into one set which will simplify the current regime, making it easier for employers to navigate the law, to complement the work the Low Pay Commission is doing on how best to streamline the system.

 

As part of the response to the Resolving Workplace Disputes consultation, the Government has committed to:

 

  • Requiring all employment disputes to go to the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (Acas) to be offered pre-claim conciliation before going to a tribunal and from April 2012 increasing the qualification period for unfair dismissal from one to two years.
  • Publishing a consultation in the new year on ‘protected conversations’ which allows employers to discuss issues like retirement or poor performance in an open manner with staff - without this being used in any subsequent tribunal claims.
  • Appointing Mr Justice Underhill to lead an independent review of the existing rules of procedure governing employment tribunals.
  • A further consultation on measures to simplify compromise agreements, which will be renamed ‘settlement agreements’.
  • Announcing plans to consider how and whether to develop a ‘rapid resolution’ scheme which will offer a quicker and cheaper alternative to determination at an employment tribunal.
  • Modifying the formulae for up-rating employment tribunal awards and statutory redundancy payments to round to the nearest pound.

 

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