Given the amount of legislative change proposed this year and the alterations to the proposed timetable, you might be forgiven for losing track a little.  Just in time for Easter, the Government has freshly hatched a batch of new developments on the employment law front: in addition to the annual legislative changes due to come into force in April, this month also saw BIS publish a revised timetable of changes to employment law – and confirm that the new requirement for claimants to pay fees for employment tribunal claims will be in place this Summer.  Julian Hoskins provides an update on the new BIS timetable, and other recently announced dates for implementation of employment law reform.  It’s going to be a busy year but this will help you stay on track…

BIS update

On 14 March 2013, the Department for Business Innovation and Skills (BIS) published an update on its progress on employment law reform – please click here for a copy of the full report – there is a useful summary chart of the reform timetable at page 18.  The key changes in the BIS document are set out below – this updates and builds on our January 2013 Employment Law Tracker.

April 2013

Annual increases

The prescribed rate of Statutory Maternity Pay and Statutory Adoption Pay will go up from £135.45 per week to £136.78 per week.  Statutory Sick Pay will go up from £85.85 per week to £86.70.

Collective redundancy consultation

From 6 April 2013, the minimum collective consultation period for redundancies involving 100 or more employees will be reduced from 90 days to 45 days.  The draft amending regulations are available here and the new regime will apply to proposals to undertake collective redundancies which are made on or after 6 April 2013. 

Acas have been asked to produce a new non-statutory Code of Practice on collective consultation but, as yet, no draft Code has been published.

Simplifying the National Minimum Wage

Consolidated and simplified National Minimum Wage regulations will be available by April 2013.

Summer 2013

Whistleblowing

Changes to whistleblowing legislation have now been postponed from April 2013 to this Summer.  The Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill will introduce but a new ‘public interest’ requirement – making it more difficult for employees to ‘blow the whistle’ in the relation to legal breaches relating to their own contract.  However, it also removes the requirement that a ‘qualifying disclosure’ for the purposes of whistleblowing legislation must be in ‘good faith’: athough there will be a discretion for employment tribunals to reduce compensation by up to 25% if they find that a disclosure has been made in bad faith.  (Please see this month’s News Round-Up for a summary of the recent developments on NHS settlement agreements and Judicial Mediation).

Employment tribunal fees

After much speculation, it has finally been confirmed that employment tribunal fees will be introduced this Summer.  Claimants will have to pay a fee of up to £250 in order to lodge their initial claim, and there will be a subsequent hearing fee of up to £950.  Tribunals will have a power (not an obligation) to order that a losing party reimburses a winning party for their fees.  It had been proposed that a remission scheme (as currently used in the civil courts) should be made available for claimants who cannot afford to pay any or part of the fee – but the suitability of this scheme for the employment tribunal was questioned in the consultation response and the Government is now reviewing the remission scheme as a whole.

Unfair dismissal compensation

The unfair dismissal compensatory award will be capped at the lower of one year’s gross pay (excluding pension contributions, benefits in kind and discretionary bonuses) and the existing limit (£74,200).

Political affiliation dismissals

Following on from the decision of the European Court of Human Rights in Redfearn v UK (please see our November 2012 article for a summary), the Government will remove the requirement for any qualifying period of employment for the right to bring an unfair dismissal claim on the grounds of political opinion or affiliation.  Such dismissals will not, however, be automatically unfair; employers will still be able to dismiss employees on the basis of their political opinions or affiliation, provided the dismissal complies with the normal requirements of a fair dismissal.

Disclosure and Barring Service

A new portable Disclosure and Barring Service which employers can instantly view online will be available, and will remove the need for employees to renew their CRB check each time they change roles.

Settlement agreements

As anticipated, ‘settlement agreements’ (to replace Compromise Agreements) and new rules around ‘settlement discussions’ will be introduced this Summer.  Acas have now published for consultation their draft non-statutory Code of Practice on Settlement Agreements.   The consultation closes on 9 April 2013.

Autumn 2013

The new ‘employee shareholder’ status (whereby certain key employment rights are exchanged in return for shares in the employing company) has been delayed from April to 1 September 2013, according to the announcement in the Budget last week.  However, the House of Lords has rejected the Bill which would introduce employee shareholder contracts; and it remains to be seen whether the Government will attempt to re-introduce it in the House of Commons.

Reform of the Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) Regulations 2006 (TUPE) is still on track for October 2013.  Consultation on these changes is still underway and closes on 11 April 2013.  Please see the ‘news round-up’ in the January edition of Employment Eye for a summary of the proposals.

And finally…

According to the BIS document of 14 March, this time next year the Government proposes to introduce:

  • the extension of the right to request flexible working for all employees (not just those with caring responsibilities)
  • Acas early conciliation
  • new sickness absence management procedures, including a new independent occupational health service for employees who have been  off sick for 4 weeks or more
  • employment tribunal penalties (a discretionary power for employment tribunals to ‘fine’ employers up to 50% of the value of an award, subject to a maximum of £5000).