employment law

A number of important changes will be made to employment law in the coming months. Some key changes to note are:

Blowing the whistle at work

From 25 June 2013 any employee who wishes to claim they have been subjected to a detriment or dismissed because they have whistleblown will need to be able to show that the disclosure they made was in the public interest. This could involve, for example, an employee within the NHS raising concerns regarding patient safety. There will no longer be a requirement for the disclosure to have been made in good faith, though compensation will be reduced if there is found to have been bad faith.

Political opinion dismissals

Employees who started employment on or after 6 April 2012 need to have two years’ service to enjoy full protection against unfair dismissal. Employees who started employment before 6 April 2012 need only have one year’s service. However, there are some claims for unfair dismissal which can be made from the date employment starts. From 25 June 2013, employees who are dismissed because of their political opinions or affiliations can claim unfair dismissal irrespective of their length of service. This represents a significant change in the law following a ruling by the European Court of Human Rights in relation to an employee who was dismissed after his election as a local councillor for the BNP.

Employment Tribunal fees introduced

Fees are being introduced for employment tribunal claims from 29 July 2013. Claimants will be required to pay a fee for lodging a claim and a further fee before the hearing. The fees will vary depending on the type of claim. For breach of contract and wages claims, the issue fee will be £160 and the hearing fee will be £250. For unfair dismissal and discrimination claims, the issue fee will be £230 and the hearing fee £950. A remission system will operate for those on low incomes. The requirement to pay fees is likely to reduce the number of claims being raised and pursued, and also impact on settlement negotiations.

Pre-termination settlement discussions

From later in the summer (no date confirmed as yet) employers will be entitled to have discussions with employees regarding possible termination of employment without those discussions being referred to in most claims for unfair dismissal. However, employers will need to be careful and ensure they do not act improperly, otherwise the discussions may be referred to. ACAS has a produced a Code of Practice which sets out how employers should deal with these situations – see Annex A in the link ‘Code of Practice’.

Also worth noting:

Each year certain statutory limits are increased. As of 6 April 2013 the weekly rates for statutory maternity, paternity and adoption pay have increased to £136.78 per week and statutory sick pay has increased to £86.70 per week.

Please let us know if you require any advice in respect of employment law.

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