April showers - reforms taking place on 6th April

The coalition government has been focusing on employment law since April 2011, and the beginning of October 2011 saw a ‘spotlight’ on employment law. So what changes are coming into effect?

The Government stated that the key aim is to reform employment law to assist business and boost the economic recovery. The major changes are: 

  • an increase in the qualifying period for unfair dismissal;
  • making it easier for employers and employees to have frank discussions and resolve disputes;
  • overhauling the employment tribunal system;
  • extending flexible working to all and reviewing collective redundancy requirements.


The 6th April 2012 changes:
 

Unfair dismissal
The qualifying period increases from one year to two years. This change only affects employees whose employment begins on or after 6th April 2012.  Those who are in employment before 6th April 2012 will retain the current one-year qualifying period.

Deposit orders
The maximum deposit a tribunal will be able to order a party to pay if their claim has little reasonable prospect of success is to be increased from £500 to £1,000. The change will affect all cases presented on or after 6th April 2012.

Costs awards
The maximum amount of costs an employment tribunal can award (without referring the case to the county court for detailed assessment) will increase from £10,000 to £20,000. The change will concern all cases presented on or after 6th April 2012.

Witness statements
Where witness statements are used, they will stand as evidence in chief and be taken as read at the hearing, unless a judge or tribunal directs otherwise. This applies to all cases presented on or after 6th April 2012.

Witness expenses
State funded witness expenses are to be withdrawn. Tribunals will have new powers to direct parties to bear the expenses of any witness. The new powers will affect claims presented on or after 6th April 2012.

Judges to sit alone on unfair dismissal cases
Unfair dismissal cases in the tribunal will be heard by a judge sitting alone without lay members, unless the judge orders otherwise. This will affect all cases heard on or after 6th April 2012. The government has said that progress on this change will be reviewed after a year.

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