What's happening next in employment law?

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This year has already involved some key changes to employment law. With more expected to follow in 2013, 2014 and 2015, below is a summary of all important employment law changes so far this year, and a look at what we have to come.

8 March 2013 Increased parental leave

Increased entitlement to parental leave from 13 to 18 weeks in total.

6 April 2013 Collective redundancy consultation

The period of collective redundancy consultation has been reduced from 90 days to 45 days for redundancies involving 100+ employees. The expiry of a fixed term contract has been excluded from the circumstances which trigger collective consultation (although early termination of a fixed term will still do so).

25 June 2013 Dismissal on the grounds of political opinion/affiliation

The two year-qualifying period for unfair dismissal claims will not apply where the alleged reason for a dismissal is, or relates to, an employee's political opinions or affiliations.

Caste discrimination

It will be unlawful to discriminate against an individual by reason of their caste.

Whistleblowing

Public interest disclosures will no longer need to be made in good faith but must be made in the 'public interest' in the reasonable opinion of the worker who blows the whistle.

29 July 2013 Fees for bringing claims in the employment tribunal

Claimants will have to pay a fee both on issue of the claim and before the hearing. Simple claims such as unlawful deductions from wages will attract a fee of £160 for issue and £230 for the hearing (unless the claimant applies for remission on the grounds of inability to pay). More complex claims such as unfair dismissal and discrimination will attract fees of £250 for issue and £950 for the hearing. If the claimant doesn't send in the issue fee or an application for remission, the claim will be rejected. If the claimant fails to pay the hearing fee, the claim can be dismissed. There is no repayment if the claim settles.

Amendments to the tribunal rules:

A. Removal of default judgements for late ET3s

Respondents who fail to lodge their ET3s in time won't automatically have a default judgement issued against them - respondents can apply for an extension of time (although this will only be granted in very limited circumstances).

B. Strike out of claims lacking merit

A new informal "sift" procedure will be introduced, under which a tribunal claim or response can be struck out at an early stage in proceedings if there is no reasonable prospect of success.

C. Automatic dismissal of withdrawn claims

When claims are withdrawn, they will automatically be dismissed by the tribunal unless the claimant reserves the right to bring further claims.

D. Time limits for a more efficient hearing

The tribunal can impose time limits for giving evidence, questioning witnesses and making submissions during the hearing.

1 September 2013 'Employee-shareholder' status

The much-maligned concept of 'employee shareholders' (who give up certain employment rights in return for shares in the business) will be introduced.

'Summer' 2013 (although we understand these changes may be delayed until October) Compromise agreements

Compromise agreements will be re-named 'settlement agreements'.

Settlement negotiations

Employers will be able to negotiate a settlement prior to termination of employment, irrespective of whether there is an existing dispute, and such negotiations will not be admissible as evidence in unfair dismissal claims in certain circumstances.

Cap on unfair dismissal compensation

Compensation for unfair dismissal claims will be limited to the lower of (a) one year's gross pay and (b) the current limit of £74,200.

October 2013 TUPE

Changes to the Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) Regulations 2006 (TUPE) will start to come into force (although the repeal of the Service Provision Change test is not expected until 2015), including provisions to make it easier to change terms and conditions of employment and make redundancies in connection with the transfer.

April 2014 Mandatory pre-claim conciliation via ACAS

Before submitting certain types of tribunal claim, a prospective claimant would need to send ACAS certain information about their claim and the ACAS officer responsible for the case would have a duty to try to promote settlement within a prescribed period. If settlement is not reached within this period, the ACAS officer will issue a certificate to confirm this. The claimant may not submit a claim to the employment tribunal without this certificate. The time limit for bringing a claim will be extended if it expires during the prescribed period.

Spring 2014 Financial penalties for employers who lose employment tribunal claims

Employers who lose an employment tribunal case could be required to pay a financial penalty of up to £5,000 to the Secretary of State, if the breach has "one or more aggravating features".

2014 Right to request flexible working

The right to request flexible working will be extended to all employees with at least 26 weeks' continuous employment.

2015 TUPE

Repeal of the Service Provision Change test, meaning that the law will revert to the original "multi-factoral" test of whether there is a "transfer of an economic undertaking which retains its identity following the transfer".

October 2015 Shared parental leave

Enables parents to share up to 50 weeks' leave and up to 37 week's statutory maternity pay between them following the birth or adoption of a child. Leave can be taken in one week blocks or longer periods, can be interspersed with periods of work and parents can take leave at the same time.

This list has been put together by the team at Kemp Little, a specialist technology and digital media law firm

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