Following its Resolving Workplace Disputes consultation and the Red Tape Challenge review of employment law, the Government has announced its proposals for reform.
The aim is to replace overly burdensome regulation whilst safeguarding workers’ rights, with a focus on resolving disputes without recourse to an Employment Tribunal (ET).
The proposals arising from the Resolving Workplace Disputes consultation include:
- increasing, from April 2012, the qualification period for unfair dismissal from one to two years;
- requiring all employment disputes to go to the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service for pre-claim conciliation before going to an ET;
- publishing a consultation on ‘protected conversations’, which allow employers to discuss issues such as retirement or poor performance in an open manner with staff without anything said being used in any subsequent ET claims;
- appointing Mr Justice Underhill to lead an independent review of the existing rules of procedure governing ETs. This will seek to address concerns that they have become increasingly complex and inefficient over time and are no longer fit for purpose;
- giving Employment Judges discretionary powers to impose financial penalties on employers whose behaviour in committing the breach had aggravating features;
- a further consultation on measures to simplify compromise agreements, which will be renamed ‘settlement agreements’; and
- consideration to be given to how and whether to introduce a ‘rapid resolution’ scheme, to offer a quicker and cheaper alternative to determination at an ET. Any proposals would then be the subject of a consultation.
Proposals resulting from the Red Tape Challenge review include:
- a call for evidence on the consultation rules for collective redundancies and whether the current 90 day minimum period for more than 100 redundancies can be reduced;
- a call for evidence on proposals to simplify the Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) Regulations 2006, which many businesses say are too complex and bureaucratic;
- merging 17 National Minimum Wage regulations into one set in order to simplify the current regime;
- a consultation on the introduction of fees for anyone wishing to bring an ET claim; and
- the creation, from early 2012, of a universally portable Criminal Records Bureau check that can be viewed by employers instantly online.
The Government’s full response can be found on the Department for Business, Innovation & Skills website.