The Government has today announced what it describes as “the most radical reform to the employment law system for decades”. In a speech to EEF, the UK manufacturers’ organisation, Vince Cable outlined the results of the Government’s recent consultation on Resolving Workplace Disputes and the recent Red Tape Challenge Review of employment law.
The proposals announced by Vince Cable include the following:
- Merge, scrap or simplify 70 of the 159 employment regulations examined in the Red Tape Challenge (this includes consolidation of 17 national minimum wage regulations)
- Publish calls for evidence on proposals to simplify TUPE and to reduce the minimum consultation period for proposed collective redundancies involving 100 or more employees, from 90 days to 60, 45 or 30 days (see links below to these consultation papers which were issued today and which will close on 31 January 2012)
- Publish a call for evidence on simplifying dismissal processes, seeking views on two proposals: whether to introduce compensated no fault dismissals for micro firms with fewer than 10 employees; and how to simplify the existing dismissal process, potentially changing the Acas Code, or to provide supplementary guidance for small businesses.
- Remove protection for any whistleblower making a disclosure about the worker’s own contract (to counter the EAT’s decision in Parkins v Sodexho Ltd  IRLR 109
- Create a universally portable CRB check that can be viewed by employers instantly online from early 2013
- Consult on the introduction of fees for bringing a claim in the Employment Tribunal, seeking views on two options: a system involving an initial fee to lodge a claim and a second fee to take that claim to hearing; or a system involving a £30,000 threshold whereby anyone seeking an award above that figure will pay more to bring a claim
- Consult on streamlining the current regulatory regime for the recruitment sector.
In addition, as part of the Government’s response to its consultation to the Resolving Workplace Disputes, the Government has said that it is committed to:
- Increasing the qualifying period for unfair dismissal from one to two years from April 2012
- Requiring all Employment Tribunal claims to be lodged with Acas and to be offered mediation before going to Tribunal
- Modifying the formulae for up-rating Tribunal awards and redundancy payments to save business an estimated £5.4 million (net) a year
- Giving Employment Judges discretion to levy a financial penalty, payable to the Exchequer, against employers for breach of employment rights
- Consulting on whether employers should be allowed to have “protected conversations” with staff without the existence of a formal dispute and without such conversations capable of being used in evidence in a future Tribunal claim
- Consulting on the simplification of compromise agreements, such as doing away with long lists of causes of action. Other proposals include introducing a standard text, amending s.146 Equality Act to provide reassurance that compromise agreements can safely be used to compromise discrimination claims, and renaming them “settlement agreements”
- Consulting on developing a “rapid resolution” scheme which will offer a quicker and cheaper alternative to determination of straightforward, low value claims at an Employment Tribunal
- Carrying out a review of Employment Tribunal rules, to be led by Mr Justice Underhill, who steps down at the end of this year from his Presidency of the Employment Appeal Tribunal.
Much of the detail of these proposals is yet to be revealed and we now have to wait for a number of consultations to be completed before we know more. It looks like 2012 will be an important year for employment law reform so watch this space!
Please click on the following links for more information: