Consultation on Reforming the Tribunal System Published

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The long-awaited consultation document on resolving workplace disputes by reforming access to the employment tribunal system has now been published. The key proposals set out in the documents are:
  • to increase the qualifying period for employees to be able to bring a claim against their employer for unfair dismissal from one year to two years, aiming to give employers greater confidence to hire new staff and reduce the number of claims in the employment tribunals. The Government believes such a move will enable businesses to ‘feel more confident about hiring people’ and create ‘more time for the relationship to get established and work well’, not become ‘a charter for businesses to sack people unfairly’;

  • to require all claims to be initially lodged with Acas to allow a period of up to one month for pre-claim conciliation to be offered, aiming to encourage both parties to resolve disputes without resorting to the tribunal. This is intended to enable potential claimants to have a clearer understanding of issues including the length of time a case might take and what a tribunal is likely to aware;

  • to introduce automatic financial penalties for employers found to have breached employment rights, on top of the ordinary compensation already payable. The penalty would generally be half the amount of the total award made to the claimant, and would be payable to the Exchequer;

  • to extend the jurisdictions where employment judges would sit alone to include unfair dismissal claims and allowing legal officers to deal with certain case management processes, aiming to ensure more efficient use of tribunal resources and allowing cases to be listed and heard more quickly, reducing time and cost;

  • to increase the powers of the tribunal to enable them to tackle weak and vexatious claims more effectively;

  • to require users of the tribunal service to make a contribution towards the cost of running employment tribunal by paying fees, transferring some of the cost burden from general tax payers to those who use the system. It is thought that a price mechanism could help incentivise earlier settlements and dis-incentivise unreasonable behaviour such as pursuing weak and vexatious claims;

  • to review the formula for calculating employment tribunal awards and statutory redundancy payment limits.
The consultation closes on 20th April and can be viewed here.

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