The government has published “Employment Law 2013: progress on reform” which notes both that in the UK, “burdens from employment law are low by international standards”, and that there is a perception that employment regulation is a problem (perhaps fuelled by exercises such as the “Red Tape challenge“?), leading to a situation where “fear of getting it wrong still undermines business confidence”. To help to counter this fear (perhaps greater than it needs to be since many employers appear to be under the impression that the ill-fated compulsory dismissal procedures are still in force) ACAS is to develop an online interactive tool for use to help with disciplinary issues.
The first change came into force from 6 April, when the period for collective redundancy consultation was cut from 90 days to 45 days. This is only relevant when 100 or more employees are subject to te same redundancy exercise. For 20 to 99 employees the consultation period remains unchanged (30 days). For fewer than 20 employees the consultation period must be reasonable but no minimum period is specified.
Looking further ahead this year:
- – New settlement agreement arrangements including a new statutory code of practice will come into force at some as yet unspecified point during summer 2013
- – Tribunal reforms have put been back to "summer" from spring 2013. These include new powers to strike out weak cases sooner rather than later, simplifying the procedure needed to withdraw claims and combining prehearing reviews and case management discussions. Fees will be introduced in employment tribunals at the same time, along with the reduced cap on unfair dismissal awards;
- – In the autumn (note the trend for nothing more specific than a season!) there are plans to reform TUPE, as I outlined last month. The introduction of the new “employee owner” status has been put back to autumn 2013 from spring (about which read more in my introduction to this month’s newsletter). The proposal has also been tweaked in the recent budget, in which it was announced that the first £2000 worth of shares will be exempt from income tax and national insurance. There is also a requirement for independent advice.
Slated for 2014 are the following (but bear in mind the current delays and postponements):
- – Employment Tribunals will be given powers to impose penalties on employers who breach employment rights;
- – early ACAS conciliation will be introduced; and
- – the right to request flexible working will be extended to all employees, but with a simpler application process.
Some new ideas are also proposed for next year, notably the introduction of a new health and work assessment and advisory service. This does meet a real need – many small and medium sized businesses would benefit from this resource in tackling long term health issues or considering adjustments for employees with disabilities. The introduction of “fit notes” has not done as much as was hoped to help with this type of problem. Our subsribers already have the benefit of direct access to occupational health consultants who are used to providing such reports so there is no need to wait for this one. It is worth bearing in mind that a dismissal for incapacity generally needs to based on a determination that the individual will not be fit to return to work for the foreseeable future. That is a medical assessment so a professional report is almost always required.