April 2012 Employment Update

April 2012

Unfair Dismissal – Qualifying Period

April brings the usual round of changes to employment law, the most important of which is the increase in the qualifying period enabling employees to bring a claim of unfair dismissal from one year to two. Essentially, this means that employees will have to have been in continuous employment with a company for at least two years to be able to make an unfair dismissal claim. However, this change does not apply retrospectively and will apply only to new employees who start work with a company on or after 6th April 2012. Employees who were employed before this date will still be able to claim for unfair dismissal with a qualifying period of one year.

The Government hopes that this change will reduce the number of employment tribunal claims for unfair dismissal and is part of its initiative to cut red tape for employers and so encourage companies to take on new staff. On the face of it, this change to employment law is good news for employers because it gives them longer to decide if an employee is a good fit for their company. However, employers should be aware that employees still potentially have the option to bring a discrimination, whistle blowing and/or health and safety claim where a defined length of service is not required.

Parental Leave

Unpaid parental leave for parents with a child under the age of 18 was due to increase from 13 to 18 weeks’ leave in 2012, but the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) has confirmed that this change has been delayed until 2013 instead.

Statutory Rate Changes

As of 1 April 2012, the standard rate of statutory maternity, paternity and adoption pay increases from £128.73 to £135.45 per week.

From 6 April 2012, the standard rate of statutory sick pay increases from £81.60 to £85.85 per week.

Employment Tribunal Rules of Procedure

Finally, the Government has announced a ‘fundamental review’ of the Employment Tribunal Rules of Procedure, resulting in substantial changes to employment tribunal procedure as of 6 April 2012.

These are:

• Employment judges will hear unfair dismissal cases alone in the tribunal, unless they direct otherwise.

• The maximum amount of a deposit order, which a tribunal can order a party to pay as a condition to continuing with tribunal proceedings, will increase from £500 to £1,000.

• The maximum amount of a costs order, which a tribunal may award in favour of a legally represented party, will increase from £10,000 to £20,000.

• Witness statements will cease to be read aloud and are to be taken "as read" unless a tribunal directs otherwise.

The maximum unfair dismissal compensatory award rises from £68,400 to £72,300 and the maximum amount of a week’s pay for the purpose of calculating a statutory redundancy payment and the basic and additional awards for unfair dismissal increases from £400 to £430.

The contents of this Newsletter are for reference purposes only and do not constitute legal advice. Independent legal advice should be sought in relation to any specific legal matter.

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