The Government has announced what is claimed as the most radical shake up of employment law for decades.
Concerned about the seemingly inexorable rise in tribunal complaints, the Government has set out a raft of changes and proposals that it hopes will greatly reduce the number of employees seeking redress through the tribunal system. The Government is hoping that these changes will benefit employers in the UK to the tune of £40m.
April 2012 will see a rise in the qualifying period necessary to claim unfair dismissal from the current one year to two years. ACAS will be required to undertake pre-claim conciliation before a claim will be allowed to progress to a full tribunal.
The Government is also consulting on introducing 'protected conversations' which would allow employers to discuss issues with employees like poor performance or retirement without the fear that these conversations could be used as evidence at a subsequent tribunal. Proposals have also been floated in relation to the requirement for employees to pay a fee or fees prior to launching tribunal actions.
The rules surrounding collective consultation will also be examined. At present, employers are under an obligation to consult for a minimum of 30 days in relation to large scale redundancies of between 20 and 99 staff; and to consult for 90 days where more than 100 staff are being dismissed. The Government is examining these timescales with a view to potentially reducing the length of time that collective consultations have to take place.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, these proposals have been welcomed by the CBI who view current employment legislation as creating a barrier to jobs and growth. Equally unsurprising is the reaction of the trade unions who see the changes, particularly in the current economic climate, as an attack on the rights of workers who are fortunate enough to still be in employment. Interesting times lie ahead.