The government is firming up on some of the many proposals to change employment law mooted in recent months, so we have a rash of consultation papers to digest and implementation dates to look forward to. (What happened to only introducing changes in April and October, to give employers a bit of a chance to keep up, by the way?) It seems that fees for bringing tribunal cases will come into force in July. Fees will be charged both to start a claim and before a hearing can be listed, and will range between £160 to start a simple low value claim, (for example about unlawful deductions) and £950 for a hearing in a more complex claim.
As well as there being an overall cap on unfair dismissal awards (increased to £74,200 from 1 February) there will be a secondary cap at 12 months’ pay – again to come into force this summer (Ending the employment relationship: government response to consultation). This will not stop any “fat cats” (remember them?) enforcing their contracts in the ordinary courts, but will affect those on low earnings with poor job prospects – perhaps because they lack qualifications or are nearing retirement age – always assuming they have been able to fund bringing a tribunal claim.
The plan to introduce a new “employee-owner” status ploughs inexorably on, despite a marked lack of enthusiasm from business. The Law Society has also weighed in with criticism, pointing out that such arrangements "will only add to red tape for small businesses and create confusion about worker’s rights". In a letter to the House of Lords Law Society president Lucy Scott-Moncrief said:
There is potential for costly satellite litigation on a range of complex issues which are likely to arise at the outset and upon termination of an employee’s contract.
For example, if an employer buys back forfeit shares when an employee leaves, satellite litigation could ensue on the question of market value. This runs counter to the government’s stated aim of supporting samll and medium-sized enterprises through simpler regulation.
She also pointed out that restrictions on an employee shareholder’s access to maternity rights and flexible working are "entirely incongruent" with the government’s stated commitement to family friendly policies.
Consultation has started on implementation of a compulsory early conciliation scheme (Early conciliation: a consultation on proposals for implementation), whereby claimants will have to refer themselves to ACAS for early conciliation and will not be able to lodge a claim unless they have done so. Continue reading