Update of Employment Law issues – May 2012

Unfair Dismissal Qualifying Period

On 6th April the qualifying period for unfair dismissal claims increased from one to years service. It’s important to note that this only affects employees starting employment on or after 6th April 2012. Anybody employed before this date still only requires just one years service to qualify.

Employment Tribunal Judges

From 6th April employment judges will sit alone to hear straightforward unfair dismissal claims. However they will still be able to direct any claim to be heard by a full panel should they see fit.

These changes are part of the Governments strategy to unblock the tribunal system and reduce costs. There is some doubt that they will have any significant impact.

Costs Awards

The maximum amount of costs an employment tribunal can award has been increased from £10,000 to £20,000

Compensated No fault Dismissals

Compensated no fault dismissal would enable a company to dismiss an employee, where no fault was identified on the part of the employee, without having to go through a formal dismissal procedure, as long as the employee is paid a set amount of compensation.

It is proposed that this would only be available to ‘micro’ companies who are defined as having ten or fewer employees,

If a company dismisses someone through this procedure it would bar the employee from bringing an unfair dismissal claim. It wouldn’t prevent the employee for bring a claim for another substantive reason such as discrimination or whistle blowing.

Protected Conversations

The Government will begin consultation later this year on introducing the concept of ‘protected conversations’.

This would allow employers to raise concerns with employees in an open way without the fear of that anything said could be used as evidence in an employment tribunal. Protected conversations would allow either the employer or employee to initiate a conversation on an issue relating to an employee’s employment rights and there would no requirement for there to be an existing dispute, as is currently the case with without prejudice conversations.