The Government is abolishing the statutory discrimination and equal pay questionnaires from 6 April 2014. However, individuals who consider they may have suffered discrimination may still ask questions of an employer. Acas has published non-statutory guidance which explains how individuals (“questioners”) should ask questions about discrimination and equal pay and how employers (“responders”) should respond.
The prescribed form will no longer apply. A questioner will be able to ask questions in any format (for example, a letter, email or questionnaire).
The Acas guidance does not state how long an employer should take to respond but questioners are encouraged to ask the employer to respond by a set date. This could result in deadlines that are much shorter than the current eight week period.
Under the current system, a failure to respond to a question or an evasive answer may result in the Employment Tribunal drawing adverse inferences from that failure or evasiveness. Under the new rules there is no penalty for failing to answer questions or for a breach of the guidance but a Tribunal may consider if and how questions were answered and this may be a ‘contributory factor’ towards its eventual decision. However, it may no longer make adverse inferences from a failure to answer or from evasive or equivocal answers. Our advice is for employers to consider and respond carefully to any questions.