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Keeping Ahead of Employment Law 2012 with Chorus HR

Definites and Maybes…

It may not be tremendously exciting, but keeping up with the latest employment law can be vital to the health of any business – compliance isn’t optional and a lack of compliance can be expensive. So, here’s a look forward to what’s on the books over the next twelve months. Some of it is actually scheduled, much of it is currently in the form of proposals which may or may not lead to a legislative change. Forewarned is forearmed.

Unfair dismissal

From 6 April 2012, the qualifying period of employment for unfair dismissal will double to two years. The expectation is that the number of unfair dismissal claims will be reduced by around 2,000 per year.

Pensions

New laws coming into force in October 2012 will require employers to enrol eligible jobholders automatically into a pension scheme. However, for SMEs, the scheme has been pushed back by up to five years. Firms employing less than 30 staff have until April 2017 to comply and those with 30-50 employees come in a little earlier at August 2015.

The following items are proposals at this stage rather than definite scheduled changes.

Compensated dismissal

After some toing and froing in the ranks, the government is proposing ‘compensated no-fault dismissals’ for micro-businesses (10 or less employees). This would allow a termination of employment accompanied by a cash settlement and no right to bring a tribunal claim for unfair dismissal. The amount of compensation has yet to be established.

Annual leave

A set of proposals to give more flexibility on annual leave, including allowing employees to carry forward unused annual leave from one leave period to the next.

Protected conversations

Consultation is likely to take place into the controversial idea of ‘protected conversations’ (the subject of a previous post on Chorus-HR), allowing openly raise issues such as poor performance or retirement without the risk that the conversation could be used in a future tribunal hearing.

Equality Act 2010

While a date has yet to be set, an announcement in May last year promised new tribunal powers in 2012. Namely to order a pay audit of employers found to have breached the Equality Act. Furthermore, the government will be consulting on the possible removal of employers’ obligation to protect employees from third-party harassment. However, given the European basis for the Equality Act, this so-called “unworkable requirement” may be complicated to remove.

Tribunals

There are several possible developments for employment tribunals in 2012:

  • The Ministry of Justice is consulting about the possible introduction in 2013 of fees for initiating tribunal claims.
  • A measure that will either raise revenue for the Exchequer or discourage employment cases going to a full hearing is a proposed fine of up to £5,000 for employers that lose a case (that’s on top of whatever damages are imposed).
  • A further proposal suggests that employment claimants should submit details of their claim to ACAS and consider the option of pre-claim conciliation (the original proposal – since diluted – was that all claims would undergo an ACAS conciliation process before going to tribunal).

Some pundits are citing this set of proposals as the biggest shake-up of employment law for decades and there certainly seem to be some fundamental or significant changes on the way. However, given that most are currently proposals and consultations, much of the detail could change before the legislation does.

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