Employment law reform – what’s on the agenda?

Employment law reform – what’s on the agenda?

The ‘Employment Law Review’ was launched by the Government back in 2010. Whilst some of the changes have been implemented (such as the reduction in the qualifying period for unfair dismissal from one to two years), 2013 is set to be the year where many of the planned changes are finally implemented. The Government has published a report that not only sets out the progress made so far, but also timetables its future plans.

Changes to redundancy rules

Significant changes have already been introduced this month in relation to redundancy consultation.

Previously, where 100 or more redundancies were proposed at one establishment within a 90 day period an employer was required to consult with unions or employee representatives for a 90 day period. From 6 April 2013, this requirement has been halved with just a 45 day consultation now required (the minimum consultation period of 30 days still applies where between 20 and 99 employees are potentially affected).

In addition, employees on fixed term contracts which have come to an end are now excluded from consultation requirements.

Acas has also produced a useful guidance for employers ‘How to manage collective redundancies’.

One issue which may arise is the question of when the ‘proposal’ to make the redundancies took place i.e pre or post 6 April. A trade union or employee representative could argue that the proposal was made prior to 6 April, so that the 90 day rather than the 45 day rule applies. Whilst the onus will be on the trade union or employee representatives to prove the existence of the proposal pre 6 April, employers should ensure that any documents accurately reflect the status of discussions to refute any arguments.

Other changes include a simplification of the national minimum wage rules. The intention is to produce a single set of consolidated regulations which will hopefully be much easier for businesses and employees to understand.

Other upcoming changes

This summer looks to be a period of significant development for Employment Law, with changes to the employment tribunal rules and the introduction of fees.

The Government has announced that new employment tribunal rules will come into force this summer, providing greater clarity, consistency and simplicity, and ensuring that claims are being dealt with in the most efficient manner. This includes changes to the ET1 and ET3 forms, enhancement of the tribunal’s ability to strike out claims or enforce costs orders, and an increased focus on alternative dispute resolution.

It has also been announced that issue fees will be introduced for the employment tribunal. This will mean that a claimant will have to incur not only a new initial issue fee to lodge their claim at the tribunal, but also another subsequent hearing fee. It is also proposed that there will be application specific fees depending on the circumstances of the particular matter. Take a look at our previous legal update on the new employment tribunal rules of procedure.

A look to the future

The proposed reforms do not stop here but will continue to develop not only through the remainder of 2013 but into 2014 and 2015.

One change to look out for is the proposed reform of TUPE 2006. The consultation on these proposed changes closed on 11 April so we are likely to see these changes implemented in the autumn. Other changes include employee shareholder status, where employees will give up some of their employment rights, in exchange for obtaining shares in the employer’s company.

For further information on other changes take a look at our snapshot view of employment changes.

If you have any questions or would like more information please contact Michelle Jenkins, Trainee Solicitor, Employment & Pensions.

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