2013 Employment Law Updates

Employment Law is constantly evolving. So much so, it may be difficult for employers to keep up with the changes.

The Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act 2013 (ERRA 2013) has made some significant changes to employment law and practice, some of which came into force on 25th June 2013 with others taking effect 29th July 2013.

25th June 2013

In summary, the June changes included:

• The removal of the two-year qualifying period for unfair dismissal claims where the reason for dismissal is the employee's political opinions or affiliation

• Agricultural wages board was abolished. This board was an independent body that determined the minimum wage for workers employed in agriculture in England and Wales and had discretionary powers to regulate other terms and conditions of employment

• The formula for uprating various tribunal awards and statutory redundancy payments was modified

• Whistleblowing rights were amended to include a provision to clarify that, to be protected against automatically unfair dismissal, whistleblowers must make their disclosure "in the public interest". The requirement for a disclosure to be made "in good faith" has been removed. However, where a disclosure is not made in good faith, the employment tribunal will be able to reduce compensation by up to 25%

29th July 2013

Further changes to employment law and practice took effect from the 29th July 2013 and include:

Compromise agreements and compromise contracts renamed “settlement agreements”

Settlement agreements are a renamed, simplified version of compromise agreements, which have been in use for many years.

Despite the name change, a settlement or compromise agreement is still a legally binding document. It contains the full terms of a deal agreed between an employer and an employee.

Once it is signed, the employee cannot bring any claim against the employer.

A notable difference with a settlement agreement is that any offers and discussions of a proposed settlement cannot be used, or referred to, in unfair dismissal claims at an employment tribunal.

A new ACAS code of practice on settlement agreements sets out the principles for using settlement agreements.

Pre-termination discussions inadmissible in unfair dismissal cases

The renamed settlement agreement brings with it the introduction of a new concept of confidentiality for pre-termination negotiations.

This will mean evidence of pre-termination negotiations between an employer and employee will be inadmissible in ordinary unfair dismissal claims, unless there has been "improper behaviour" by the employer.

This will apply even where no formal dispute has yet arisen and so goes further than the familiar "without prejudice" rule. The legislation applies to negotiations that are expected to lead to terminating employment under a settlement agreement.

The Acas Code of Practice on Settlement Agreements (PDF link) has been published to support the new concept of confidential pre-termination negotiations.

Fees for tribunal claims introduced

Claimants who issue a claim against their employer will have to pay a fee to submit a claim to an employment tribunal. In some circumstances fees will also be payable by the respondents.

There are two levels of claim, depending on the complexity of the case. The claimant pays an initial fee to issue a claim and a further fee if the claim proceeds to a hearing.

The tribunal may order the fees to be repaid to the claimant if he or she is successful with his or her claim. Fees are also payable for appeals submitted to the Employment Appeal Tribunal.

Compensatory award limit for unfair dismissal amended

The maximum compensatory award in unfair dismissal cases will now be the lower of 12 months’ pay and the existing statutory cap of £74,200. This will not apply where the effective date of termination is on or before its implementation date.

Revised employment tribunal rules come into force

The Employment Tribunal Rules of Procedure are revised to simplify and streamline the process for dealing with employment tribunal claims.

Changes to the rules include combining pre-hearing reviews and case management discussions into a preliminary hearing, new strike out powers and a stand-alone rule to encourage alternative dispute resolution.

Let us help

If you have an employment law query relating to any of these changes or any other employment law issue, please contact Daniel Zakis or Alison Willis at Wallace Robinson & Morgan solicitors in Solihull and book an appointment for a consultation.

You can contact Daniel and Alison on 0121 705 7571 or by email to danielzakis@wallacerobinson.co.uk or alisonwillis@wallacerobinson.co.uk

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