In this edition of the newsletter, we highlight some recent and forthcoming important changes, updates, and newsworthy items in employment law. Employers should update their employment policies and procedures to take into account certain of these changes, if applicable and not already done so.
- 79% drop in number of Employment Tribunal claims
- Increase in statutory rates
- Re-classification of types of Employment Tribunal claims
- UNISON judicial review application regarding Employment Tribunal fees fails
- Abolition of discrimination questionnaires
- Mandatory pre-claim ACAS conciliation
- Financial penalties for losing employers
79% drop in number of Employment Tribunal claims
The latest Employment Tribunal statistics released by the Ministry of Justice show that there has been a 79% decrease (compared to the same period a year ago) in the number of overall number of claims made in the Employment Tribunal (single claims + multiple claims) and there has been a 67% decrease in the number of single claims by individual workers. It’s currently unclear as to why claims have fallen by this amount, although most commentary attributes the reason to the introduction of Employment Tribunal fees in late July 2013.
Increase in statutory rates
There has been an increase to various rates and limits in the employment law field as of 6 April 2014:
- The maximum limit on a week’s pay (used for calculating statutory redundancy pay and the basic award in unfair dismissal claims): increased to £464 per week
- The maximum compensatory award that a tribunal can make in an unfair dismissal claim: increased to £76,574 (or a year’s gross pay, whichever is lower)
- The minimum basic award for particular types of unfair dismissal claims (e.g. for health and safety reasons, for reasons of trade union membership, occupational pension scheme trustee reasons, or acting as an employee representative): £5,676
- The maximum statutory redundancy payment: £13,920
The new rates will be applicable if the effective date of termination falls on or after 6 April 2014 in cases involving dismissal. However, as for dismissals prior to 6 April 2014 the old rates still apply.
Re-classification of types of Employment Tribunal claims
Under the Courts and Tribunals Fees (Miscellaneous Amendments) Order 2014 (SI 2014/590) a number of “Type B” claims will be re-categorised as “Type A” claims – this is to remedy what the Government has identified as a mistake in the legislation. Type B attract a higher issue fee of £250 instead of £160. The re-categorised claims include claims for:
- Equal pay
- Sex equality in pension schemes
- Failure to inform and consult under TUPE
- Breach of right to request time off for training; and
- Failure to allow compensatory rest under the Working Time Regulations 1998
UNISON to appeal failed judicial review application regarding Employment Tribunal fees
According to UNISON, an appeal will shortly be launched after the High Court rejected the trade union’s application for judicial review against the introduction of Employment Tribunal fees.
Abolition of discrimination questionnaires
Discrimination questionnaires will be repealed under s.138 of the Equality Act 2010. Section 138 currently gives employees and ex-employees the statutory right to serve questionnaires upon employers which required them to respond with certain information. From 6 April 2014 employees will no longer have the statutory right to serve these questionnaires.
Mandatory pre-claim ACAS conciliation
From 6 April 2014 voluntary pre-claim ACAS conciliation was introduced – this will follow a four-step process. Guidance from ACAS on early conciliation can be found here. From 6 May 2014 early conciliation will become mandatory and claims will not be accepted by the Employment Tribunal until the Claimant engages with the ACAS early conciliation scheme.
Financial penalties for losing employers
For claims issued on or after 6 April 2014, Employment Tribunals have the power to order that a losing employer pay a financial penalty of up to £5,000 where the defence of the Employment Tribunal claim displays “aggravating features”.