• Employment Law Reforms in April 2012

    A range of employment law reforms come into force in April 2012. Perhaps the most important of the Government’s employment law reforms, the increase in the unfair dismissal qualifying period, takes effect on 6 April. Other changes in April include new rates of statutory maternity pay and sick pay and amendments to the tribunal rules of procedure.

    On 1 April, the Social Security Benefits Up-rating Order 2012 SI 2012/780 increased Statutory Maternity, Paternity, Additional Paternity, Adoption Pay and Maternity Allowance from £128.73 to £135.45 per week. Changes taking place on 6 April include:

    the Unfair Dismissal and Statement of Reasons for Dismissal (Variation of Qualifying Period) Order 2012 SI 2012/989 increasing the qualifying period required to bring a claim of unfair dismissal or request a written statement of reasons for dismissal to two years for those starting a new job on or after 6 April 2012. Employees whose employment started before 6 April will remain subject to the one-year qualifying period
    the Employment Tribunals Act 1996 (Tribunal Composition) Order 2012 SI 2012/988 enabling judges to sit alone in unfair dismissal cases

    the Employment Tribunals (Constitution and Rules of Procedure) (Amendment) Regulations 2012 SI 2012/468 amending the Tribunal Rules to enable employment judges and tribunals to order a party to pay a witness’s expenses in attending a tribunal; take witness statements as read unless an employment judge or tribunal directs otherwise; provide that the rule on sending documents to the EHRC shall not apply where the Security Service, the Secret Intelligence Service or the Government Communications Headquarters is a party; increase the maximum costs order from £10,000 to £20,000; and increase deposit orders for weak claims from £500 to £1,000

    the Equality Act 2010 (Amendment) Order 2012 SI 2012/334 making clear that a claimant’s solicitor can be an independent adviser for the purpose of a compromise agreement

    the Social Security Benefits Up-rating Order 2012 SI 2012/780 increasing Statutory Sick Pay from £81.60 to £85.85

    changes to guidance on tribunal application and response forms to include the average value of awards and time taken to reach a hearing

    changes to the immigration rules, including limiting the stay of temporary Tier 2 migrants to a maximum of 6 years, and removing the ability of overseas domestic workers to change employer. See our news story of 2 March for further details.

    Other reforms announced by the Government in its response to the resolving workplace disputes consultation ‘will be implemented when parliamentary time allows’. These include:

    allowing tribunals to levy financial penalties, payable to the Exchequer, on employers found to have breached employment rights where the employer’s behaviour in committing the breach had ‘aggravating features’

    requiring all employment disputes to be offered Acas pre-claim conciliation before going to a tribunal
    altering the default constitution of the EAT so that judges will always sit alone unless they direct that members should be involved, and

    modifying the formulae for up-rating tribunal awards and redundancy payments to the nearest pound.

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