UK Government Announces Revised Timetable for Employment Law Reform

by Dechert LLP

The Government has announced an updated and revised timetable for the implementation of its proposed employment law reforms over the next two years.

The Government’s Employment Law Review was launched in 2010 to improve flexibility and efficiency in the labour market and reduce barriers to growth and job creation. Now that it is half way through that review, some significant changes have already been implemented, including the increase in the qualifying period for unfair dismissal from one to two years. From now until the end of this Parliament, the Government plans to move to a more intense phase of implementation.

The revised proposed timetable for the next phase of reforms is:

Spring 2013

  • Consolidating the National Minimum Wage Regulations and publishing a single set of improved regulations.
  • Reforming collective redundancy rules, including a reduction in the minimum consultation period for redundancies involving 100 employees or more from 90 to 45 days.

Summer 2013

  • Making settlement easier by making pre-termination settlement conversations inadmissible in unfair dismissal claims and providing a statutory Code of Practice on settlement negotiations.
  • Introducing a cap of 12 months’ pay on the compensatory award for unfair dismissal.
  • Reforming whistle-blowing rules to ensure that they only protect disclosures which are in the public interest, and introducing vicarious liability to protect individuals who are victimised by their co-workers for whistle-blowing.
  • Introducing revised Employment Tribunal rules of procedure, including new ET1 and ET3 forms.
  • Introducing tribunal fees, so that submitting a claim to an Employment Tribunal or an appeal to the Employment Appeal Tribunal will be subject to an initial fee and a subsequent hearing fee.

Autumn 2013

  • Introducing a new “employee shareholder” status where employees will be able to obtain shares in their employer in exchange for giving up some of their employment rights, principally the right to clairm unfair dismissal. 
  • Reforming TUPE 2006, including the proposed repeal of “service provision change” provisions and removing the obligation to provide employee liability information.

Spring 2014

  • Extending the right to request flexible working to all employees with 26 weeks’ service, rather than just those who qualify as parents or carers.
  • Providing early conciliation, so that parties have the opportunity to resolve their dispute through ACAS before a claim can be lodged at the Employment Tribunal.
  • Tackling long-term sickness absence with the introduction of a health and work assessment and advisory service to provide state-funded occupational health assessments for employees who have been off sick for four weeks or more.
  • Giving Employment Tribunals the power to levy financial penalties against employers who are found to have breached employment rights.

Many of the reforms are the culmination of extensive consultation which has taken place over the last two years and, in some cases, is still ongoing. The proposed schedule of reform represents a major overhaul of UK employment law and the consequences are far-reaching. As a result, the timeframe is ambitious. It remains to be seen whether the Government can stick to it, particularly as some of these reforms have already been pushed back. Nonetheless, the message is clear that the Government envisages a period of significant change. Future DechertOnPoints will provide updates on the final detail of the key reforms as and when they come into force.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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