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Government announces employment law reforms

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After many months of rumour, Business Secretary Vince Cable has announced the government's proposals for what is claimed to be the biggest shakeup of employment law for decades. The government has also, this morning, published its Response to the Consultation on Resolving Workplace Disputes.

The main proposals are:-

  • unfair dismissal qualifying period to increase to two years
  • compulsory lodging of all claims through Acas, for an attempt at mediation, before they can be lodged with the tribunal
  • consultation on the introduction of protected conversations, with the proviso that they will not extend to protect discriminatory acts
  • a call for evidence, with a view to consultation, on reducing minimum period for redundancy consultation to 60, 45 or 30 days

And some other proposals, which have not been previously leaked/trailed in the newspapers:-

  • options for a 'rapid resolution scheme', to enable simple claims to be settled within three months
  • amendment to s147 of Equality Act 2010, to clarify compromise agreements can be used to settle discrimination claims
  • complaints about breach of employment contract (Parkin v Sodexho) to be taken out of whistleblowing law
  • financial penalties to be introduced on employers who breach employment rights, payable to the Exchequer, subject to a discretion exercisable by Employment Judges
  • a fundamental review of employment tribunal rules of procedure, to be led by Underhill J (who steps down as President of the EAT at the end of next month), to include changes to costs and desposit orders
  • Employment Judges to sit alone in unfair dismissal cases
  • CRB checks to be portable, so no need for a fresh application when moving jobs
  • maternity and paternity leave to be 'modernised', with emphasis on greater involvement for fathers

And the government has said it is still looking at the option of compensated no-fault dismissals for micro-businesses (but it is not publishing any proposals at this time, it remaining a controversial suggestion raised in the Beecroft Report). According to an article in the Financial Times published before Vince Cable's speech, the government intends to call for evidence on the implications of no-fault dismissals for micro-businesses, but at the time of writing I have not seen the text of Vince Cable's speech to confirm it.

A big thanks to PLC Employment, who attended the Press Conference and have tweeted much of the above information before DBIS has published its press release on the internet. For 'live' comment, have a look at the #ukemplaw thread on Twitter.