Employment tribunal reforms planned
The government is looking for ways to lessen the volume of unfair dismissal claims, reports HR Zone.
According to HR Zone, a CIPD survey found that nearly 70% of employers feared they were at risk from unjustifiable tribunal claims. A further 60% reported suffering unfair dismissal cases in which claimants added discrimination to the case in the hope of winning more compensation.
Tribunal cases have soared in recent years and government proposals are being brought forward to reduce the volume of tribunal hearings and by encouraging more workplace-based mediation to resolve disputes. The Resolving Workplace Disputes consultation paper sets out a number of “business friendly” proposals including:
- Increasing the qualification period for claiming unfair dismissal from one year to two, which should reduce the number of claims by 3,700-4,700 (6.4%-8.2% of last year’s total number).
- Charging claimants a fee to lodge tribunal claims, and requiring all claims to go to the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (Acas) first, before proceeding to the employment tribunal, which could potentially reduce annual claims by another 12,000.
- Introducing a more flexible strike-out power and allow judges to issue a deposit order at any stage of the proceedings.
- Shorter hearings, for example with statements taken as read and more judges sitting alone .
Given the CIPD survey findings, changes designed to encourage claimants to pause and reflect before proceeding with claims and to settle early will be welcomed. However, Croner UK head of litigation Andy Willis noted that fixed conciliation periods were introduced in 2004, but were abandoned as ineffective by 2008.
Willis also warned of a “sting in the tail” in the shape of a proposal to introduce automatic financial penalties on employers found to have breached employment rights. These penalties would be payable on top of any compensation.