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Employment Law Reforms - are they good news?

On 23 September 2011, Vince Cable, the government's business secretary, made some momentous announcements about proposals for reforms of employment law. Among them were some affecting Employment Tribunals which appear to be good news for employers.
Proposed Reforms about Dismissal and Tribunals?
One of the most controversial proposals is the increase in the period of employment needed before an employee may claim unfair dismissal. Currently this is a year, but if the proposals are made law, it will become two years. The government expects this to reduce the number of claims by around 4,000 a year.
The exception to the qualifying period if an employee claims an unfair dismissal because of whistle blowing activities is to remain. However, a complaint about a breach of the employment contract can no longer be considered a whistle blowing case.
Another proposal has been labelled 'protected conversations', whereby you can be as frank and forthright as you wish when talking to a member of staff about his or her performance at work, or about any other HR issues. The conversation will not be allowed as evidence in a case for unfair dismissal.
All claims will have to go through ACAS before a tribunal is convened, in the hope that they can be agreed through conciliation, saving time and money. And a review of tribunal procedures is also proposed, with a brief to consider whether they should remain free for claimants or be subject to charges, including deposits before anything happens. This is expected to prove a good deterrent to individuals not sure of their case.
Another proposal under consideration is for micro businesses with fewer than 10 employees to be allowed to make no-fault dismissals of employees with no come back.
Why Make These Proposals?
The object of all this is to make employers feel more secure in taking on staff. It is aimed mainly at entrepreneurs and small business owners who may be cautious about growing their organisations with additional staff. It is expected to help produce the growth that the economy needs, although sceptics are not in agreement.
A Word of Warning to Employers
Don't be complacent about the future. These are proposals and are not yet enshrined in law. Few will come into force before 2013. Disaffected staff will be aware of them and could take action sooner rather than later.
Day 1 rights of employees have not changed. Take care these are not breached, and continue to focus your HR efforts on managing your staff well to keep them happy and loyal.
This article is for information purposes only and should not be deemed as giving advice. For professional advice on any employment law matter, contact a suitably qualified adviser.



16 December 2011
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