ACAS warns tribunal fees may cause more disputes
Earlier last year, Vince Cable announced the Government’s controversial proposal that tribunal fees should be introduced. ACAS has recently expressed concern that, if tribunal fees are introduced, many employers will bank on their employees not having the financial means to lodge a claim and will, as a result, not make any early efforts to resolve workplace disputes. ACAS fear that it will only be when employers find out that an employee is prepared to pay the tribunal fee that they will make efforts to manage the dispute effectively, making it harder for ACAS to achieve early settlements.
The Government’s consultation on the introduction of fees for employees who wish to bring tribunal claims against their employers closed on 6 March. The Government will now review the responses and provide its response.
Government response to Modern Workplaces Consultation expected in Spring 2012
In May 2011, the Government launched its Modern Workplaces Consultation in which it sought views on the following:
- A new system of shared parental leave;
- Extending the right to make a flexible working request to all employees;
- Rescheduling or carrying over untaken annual leave;
- Compulsory pay audits (for those who have been found guilty of pay discrimination).
The consultation closed in August 2011, and in December 2011 the Government announced that their response would be published in Spring 2012. With Spring now here we should not have to wait much longer before we see the Government’s policy proposals in the above areas.
Employment Judges to sit alone in unfair dismissal cases from 6 April 2012
It has been much publicised that the qualifying period for an unfair dismissal claim will increase to two years for new starts from 6 April 2012. There is, however, to be another significant change in relation to unfair dismissal claims, which has received less media attention. From 6 April 2012, unfair dismissal cases will be heard by an Employment Judge sitting alone, unless the Employment Judge directs otherwise. This is a significant change from the current position where all unfair dismissal cases are heard by a panel comprising an Employment Judge and two lay tribunal members (from industry and employee backgrounds).
This change was first proposed in the Government’s consultation on Resolving Workplace Disputes. There was not much support for this proposal from those who responded to the consultation (many feeling lay members provide valuable input in unfair dismissal claims which revolve around questions of fact), however the Government confirmed the change will be implemented from 6 April 2012 nonetheless.