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Changes in Employment Law

Fiona Hume, Astle Paterson’s Employment specialist, discusses the important recent changes in employment law, some of which will benefit employers as employees will now be discouraged from bringing claims.

Qualifying Period for Unfair dismissal

Employees who started work on or after 6th April 2012 must now work for 2 years before they can bring a claim for unfair dismissal.  However, they will not have to work for 2 years to bring certain claims – including dismissal for pregnancy or maternity leave, trade union membership, whistle blowing or reporting health and safety risks.

Settlement Agreements (Compromise Agreements)

Compromise Agreements, which enable an employee to give up their rights at an Employment Tribunal in return for a settlement payment, are now to be known as Settlement Agreements.

ACAS have brought in a new statutory Code which sets out new rules as to whether negotiations, which are carried out before terminating a contract of employment, will be admissible at a Tribunal hearing.   Previously, an employer could only have discussions which would not be used as evidence, in an ordinary unfair dismissal claim if there was a dispute.   Now an employer can approach an employee to discuss potential termination of their employment even where there is no prior dispute.

The Unfair Dismissal Compensatory Award

In another move to encourage employees to settle claims, a new cap to the compensatory award, made to a successful claimant at Employment Tribunal, has been introduced; either £74,200.00 or equal to one year’s pay.  If a claimant expects to be out of work for more than a year, their compensation will be limited to a year’s pay. They will also receive their basic award which is calculated on age, weekly pay and length of service.  However, there are exceptions to the cap; for dismissals that are automatically unfair, for whistle blowing, health and safety reasons or for compensation that can be awarded for discrimination claims under the Equality Act 2010.

Conciliation

From April 2014, anyone wishing to make an Employment Tribunal claim will need to contact ACAS first.

ACAS will offer ‘Early Conciliation’ to try and resolve the dispute quickly and cost effectively. Cases which are not resolved through ACAS’ service within a month will still be able to proceed to the Employment Tribunal.

Please contact Fiona Hume of Astle Paterson (Solicitors in Burton upon Trent, Staffordshire) on 01283 531366 or by way of email to fhume@astlepaterson.co.uk

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