Stephen Brookes reviews the April 2012 changes in employment law.
In these times of economic crisis, one focus of the present Government is to promote employment in the private sector. To facilitate this, it has been made harder for employees to bring unfair dismissal claims. By The Unfair Dismissal and Statement of Reasons for Dismissal (Variation of Qualifying Period) Order 2012/989 , the period for which an employee has to work berfore qualifying for protection from unfair dismissal has been extended from 1 year to 2 years for all employments starting from the 6th April 2012.
Employees who started their employment before this date will be unaffected and their qualifying period will still be 1 year.
However, there are certain cases where a dismissal is automatically unfair and such cases do not require any qualifying period.
To deter claims yet further the Tribuals are to be allowed to charge fees for issuing proceedings and hearing cases and tribunals can order parties to deposit up to £1000 with the tribunal as a condition for allowing the case to proceed. The maximum a tribunal can award in an adverse costs order has also increased from £10,000 to £20,000.
Other changes include allowing a tribunal to accept witness statments as read rather than requiring the witness to attend in person to go through their statement. Such has been the practice in the County Courts and High Court for 20 years.