Friday, 18 November 2011

Good news on tribunal changes

Shropshire employers have had a double dose of good news from the Government this week. Our employment law specialist, John Mehtam, said legislation changes to reduce the number of employment tribunals and to boost the economy had been warmly welcomed.

"This is a rare occasion when legislation has been changed in favour of the employer, and it's great news for Shropshire companies at what is a very difficult time."

The first change comes into force on April 1 next year, when the qualifying period for unfair dismissal will be extended from one year to two years. "This means employees will need two years' continuous service with your company to claim unfair dismissal, and the Government estimates the change will reduce the number of tribunal claims by 2000 per year."

There will be some exceptions to the two-year rule though - employees will not be required to have been in their job for two continuous years in order to make a claim for:

Health and safety dismissals; pregnancy-related dismissals (only if the employer knew about the pregnancy); dismissals relating to trade union membership or non-membership; dismissals in connection with the national minimum wage; dismissals connected with refusing to exceed the 48-hour working week; dismissals for whistle blowing; unlawful discrimination (including sex, race, disability, age, sexual orientation, part-time workers, fixed term).

"As well as extending the qualifying period next year, April 2013 will introduce fees for people lodging a tribunal claim. The hope is that businesses will be encouraged to take on new people without the fear of spurious tribunal claims if things do not work out."

John said currently there was no fee for lodging a claim, and more than 80 per cent of tribunal claims lodged did not proceed to a hearing, with nearly half of those withdrawn by the employee involved.

"But even if they don't get to a hearing, you will still have spent time and money preparing a defence, so charging claimants at an early stage is designed to ensure both parties have a stake in proceedings."