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Important changes to Employment Law

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Did you know that there have been several key changes in Employment Law? Are you up to date with the changes that came in to force on 6 April 2014?

Since 6 April 2014 employees have had the option of submitting details of their dispute to ACAS before they issue a claim in the employment tribunal.  This became mandatory on 6 May 2014. They are now offered early conciliation for up to a month, which can be extended by a further two weeks, and the time limit for presenting a claim will also be extended.  If conciliation is refused by either party or does not succeed, the employee is able to present his or her claim.  There is no obligation on either party to conciliate but it is hoped that ACAS will have a high success rate and that this free service will mean a number of potential employment claims are settled before tribunal proceedings are started, which could save employers time and money.

Where there are aggravating features such as unreasonable behaviour, negligence or malice, Tribunals have now been given the power to impose a financial penalty on employers who lose at Tribunal of 50% of any award.  The minimum penalty will be £100 and the maximum is £5,000. The penalty can be reduced by 50% if the employer pays within 21 days.  Tribunals are required to take account of the employer’s ability to pay when making an award.

Tribunal compensation limits rose on 6 April 2014 in line with inflation.  The maximum compensatory award for unfair dismissal will be £76,574 (or 52 weeks pay if less).  A week’s pay for calculating both the basic award for unfair dismissal and statutory redundancy payments will be £464 and the maximum basic award or statutory redundancy payment will now be £13,920.

Statutory discrimination questionnaires have been abolished. There is now a new "informal approach" to fill the gap left by abolishing the statutory questionnaire procedure. The government considers that this non-legislative approach, which is set out in ACAS guidance, will be "fairer for all" and that this will enable businesses to better challenge any unreasonable requests for information.

If you are concerned about these recent changes or any other employment issue please contact a member of our Employment Team for further advice.