Changes in the Employment Tribunal

March 16, 2012 |

From the 6 April 2012, changes are being introduced in the Employment Tribunal, the most notable being that the qualifying period for bringing a claim will be increased from one years service to two years. This change only affects those who start employment on or after the 6 April 2012.

This has raised the issue of whether employees with less than two years service will be dismissed more easily, as employers will not be fearful that the employee may take the case to the Tribunal. Those who have genuinely been unfairly dismissed will be left without a remedy in the Tribunal, thereby preventing access to justice.

There is also concern that discrimination claims will increase as these claims do not attract a minimum qualifying period. This will create more hassle for the employer in investigating the claim and consequently, the number of Tribunal claims will not decrease.

However, at a time when we should be doing all we can to encourage small businesses, this is a welcome change for some. Businesses will have the confidence to hire without the fear that they cannot subsequently dismiss an employee who is performing badly.

Currently approximately 80% of claims in the Tribunal do not make it to a full hearing. 40% are withdrawn, suggesting that they were without merit. Employers are still required to spend money in preparing a defence to these claims which they do not recover from the vexatious claimant. The other 40% of claims settle before a hearing suggesting that mediation is the way forward for most.

There are other changes coming into force on the 6 April 2012 including changes to costs orders, deposit orders, witness statements, witness expenses and judges sitting alone.

There are also plans to introduce fees in the Tribunal from next year and consultation closed on the 6 March 2012.

For now we will have to wait for the impact of these changes and whether they produce the results that the Government is hoping for.

For further information, please contact Jenny Bennett.

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