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March 2013

Parts of the Equality Act 2010 will be repealed, abolishing discrimination questionnaires (s.138).

The Parental Leave Directive (2010/18/EC) is implemented into UK law with an increase in parental leave entitlement from 13 to 18 weeks.

Under the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012 the Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) is now called the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) and reports will now be portable between employers thus removing the burden of needing a new report each time a worker changes job.

April 2013

From 6 April 2013 the 90 day minimum consultation period before the first redundancy can take effect is reduced to 45 days where 100 or more employees are affected.

The government aim to create a new type of employment status, employee shareholders. See my earlier posting. Care should be taken around the issue of pregnant women which the Government recognise as being adversely impacted by this move.

Enterprise and Reform Bill – changes expected in 2013

i)              Unfair Dismissal Compensation

The Secretary of State will be given the power to cap unfair dismissal compensation awards. The cap could be set at an amount of between one and three times’ median annual earnings (currently £25,882 – £77,646), or a number of weeks’ pay (not less than 52 weeks), or the lower of these two figures. The cap may differ for different employers.

This could make higher earning employees consider taking action in the civil courts rather than the tribunal.

ii)             Negotiated Settlements, Pre-Claim Conciliation

Although the idea of “protected conversations” with employees has been dropped, pre termination negotiations (made by either party) will be inadmissible in the tribunal. This will be very similar to current “without prejudice” negotiations but will only apply for unfair dismissal claims. An employee though would still need to have independent legal advice before agreeing a settlement.

Compromise agreements will be renamed settlement agreements with the intention of there being a standard template.

There will be a new duty on parties to attempt pre-claim ACAS conciliation. This will be a mandatory process and a tribunal claim will not be possible unless the claimant can prove it was not possible to reach settlement. The tribunal deadline will be extended to allow for this negotiation.

iii)            Equal Pay

An employer found liable for gender pay discrimination may face the extra burden of having to conduct an equal pay audit on their workforce, unless they have carried this out already in the last 3 years, have transparent pay practices or have a good reason why this would not be useful.

iv)            Penalties for Employers

An employer who loses at the final hearing could face the consequence that the tribunal will be able to impose a financial penalty on them of 50% of any financial award made to the claimant. There will be a £100 minimum and a £5,000 maximum. The money though will go the Secretary of State and not the claimant. This penalty is not automatic and will be at the tribunal’s discretion.

v)             Whistleblowing

The Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill will tighten the definition of disclosure in the ERA 1996, so a worker must now have a genuine belief that their disclosure is “in the public interest”.

Summer 2013

Fees will be introduced into Employment Tribunals (no date has been announced).

There will be an initial fee and then a further fee due 4 -6 weeks before the hearing.

The amount to be paid is likely to be structured similarly to the civil courts, set along a class or track which is determined by complexity and potential value.

October 2013

For companies quoted on the stock exchange with financial years ending on or after 1 October 2013. As part of moves to close the gender gap in the boardroom, the Companies Act 2006 (Strategic Report and Director’ Report) Regulations 2013 requires disclosure in the director’s report of the number of men and women in the company who are:

  • directors
  • managers
  • employees