Employment Law Updates in 2013
So another year has passed by and with it came a whole host of new features to make the Employment solicitors scratch their heads try and work out how things work now. This article will be a quick run down of all the key employment law updates that have happened over the past 12 months
One of the biggest change to happen this year is the introduction of tribunal fees. This has hit many firms which work primarily in Employment Law hard. To issue a basic unfair dismissal claim you need to be able to fork out £250 initially and then a further £950 if it goes all the way to tribunal. This is a smaller amount if you are pursuing an unlawful deduction from wages claim however this can still be a significant amount if you are out of work etc.
There is a remission fee system in place where you can apply for a reduction (either total or a percentage of the fees) based upon your gross monthly income. There are other factors involved like if you’re part of a couple or have financially dependent children. However in our experience a lot of people are put off by these fees even when we mention the remissions and it has led to a drastic downturn in the number of cases being submitted with recent figures suggesting claims have dropped by 50%.
There is currently a challenge in the high court by Unison regarding the tribunal fees and we are awaiting the judgement which should hopefully arrive in the new year.
Settlement Agreements/Compromise Agreements
Settlement Agreements are now the new name for compromise agreements. This is purely a cosmetic change however there has been a change to pre-termination discussions. From October 2013 Employers are now allowed to enter into confidential discussions regarding settlement with their employees. These discussions cannot then be used in any claim for unfair dismissal however if there is discriminatory comments involved in these discussions then this protection is removed.
In September 2013 there has been the introduction of the ability to be an employee shareholder. In these circumstances you can be given at the minimum £2000 worth of shares and in return you have to give up many employment rights such as the ability to claim unfair dismissal or the entitlement to receive redundancy payments. It is of our belief that most employees would likely turn down this offer as although there may be some minor short term gain the long term advantage is insignificant.
Cap on Compensation
The Government has also introduced a cap on the maximum level of compensation that is available to be awarded. If you issued your claim after July this year (when the fees were introduced) then the maximum compensation that is available for an unfair dismissal claim is £74,200 or one year’s basic pay, whichever is the lower. This could have a major impact on awards as currently the average income sits at around £26,800. Employees who have low basic pay but high levels of remuneration in other forms (pensions, commission etc) will be particularly badly hit.
In June 2013 there has been a change to how whistleblowing operates. There is now a requirement for the protected disclosure to be in the public interest. On the flip side you no longer need to make the disclosure in good faith. This is to try and encourage people to make disclosures following controversial failings in certain organisations. However if the tribunal feel that the disclosure was made in bad faith there is a chance the amount you would be awarded is decreased by a percentage no greater than 25%.
There has been one change with regard to redundancies and in particular large scale redundancies. This change is that in situations where there are collective redundancies of more than 100 people the consultation period has been reduced from 90 days to 45 days.
This has been increased from 13 to 18 weeks.
The Government has repealed provisions giving employees protection against harassment by third parties in October 2013. This appears to us as a step backwards as it leaves employees open to discrimination from other sources and very limited recourse available to them.
So 2013 has been quite a big year for employment law. With the introduction of tribunal fees to the limit on compensation available for an individual not all of it has been good news. We hope that the fees will be overturned in the new year and are keeping our fingers crossed that there aren’t too many drastic changes awaiting us in 2014.