Thursday, 27 January 2011

Good bye Employment we knew them...

The Govt today has announced a consultation on the following proposed reforms to employment law and Employment Tribunals:
  • Giving businesses greater confidence to hire new staff by increasing the qualifying period for employees to be able to bring a claim for unfair dismissal from one to two years - this will also ultimately reduce the number of disputes that go to Employment Tribunals; indeed it will - equally it will remove a large swathe of employees from this fundamental right -funny how they don't mention that....
  • Encouraging parties to resolve disputes between themselves as early as possible – requiring all claims to be lodged with Acas (Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service) in the first instance to allow pre-claim conciliation to be offered. This also includes introducing settlement offers to encourage parties to make reasonable offers of settlement to avoid Tribunal hearings and encouraging parties to consider other forms of early dispute resolution such as mediation;  Happy to hear that Part 36 is going to be imported into Tribunal proceedings - but please don't foist claims upon ACAS - they can hardly cope as it is and are largely useless.
  • Speeding up the tribunal process – extending the jurisdictions where judges would sit alone to include unfair dismissal, introducing the use of legal officers to deal with certain case management functions and taking witness statements as read. This will result in Employment Tribunal resources being used more efficiently and allow cases to be listed and heard more quickly, saving time and cost; and  Good bye to the industrial jury - I am strongly against this  - I did an unfair dismissal case last week which was won by the employee on the majority vote of the lay members against the judge (who was far too case hardened and unfriendly to the employee).  Legal Officers rather than judges undertaking case management, that'll work, not.
  • Tackling weak and vexatious claims – providing the Employment Tribunals with a range of more flexible case management powers so that weaker cases can be dealt with in a way that does not mean disproportionate costs for employers.Summary judgment does not work in the Employment Tribunal save where it is obvious that a claim is misconceived (and Tribunals already strike out those claims) - claimants should entitled to argue their cases fully before lay members rather than having their claims summarily judged at a premature stage by a judge alone...
There is also a commitment for the Ministry of Justice to consult separately on introducing fees for Employment Tribunal cases and appeals, to ensure that users contribute towards the cost of running the system. But they'll have to be fee remission to comply with article 6 ECHR -and for former dismissed employees on JSA, that will mean no fees?
The consultation document also includes proposals to:
  • Increase the provision of information – aimed at reducing speculative claims, this would require more information on the nature of the claim being made and to include a statement of loss. It will help parties to decide whether to agree a settlement offer or proceed to a Tribunal hearing;So scrap the current user friendly claim forms and introduce formal court pleadings - in other words back to the state of affairs the tribunals were designed to avoid.
  • Withdraw the payment of expenses - encouraging parties to either settle earlier or reduce the number of witnesses they call; and, Agreed
  • Introduce financial penalties for employers found to have breached rights – aimed at encouraging greater compliance from employers and thus a reduction in the number of Tribunal cases.Err....add civil or criminal penalties to the causes of action before the Tribunal?  That'll help businesses no end???
Some good points, but otherwise another bad day for justice....still some money might be saved, so that's OK then....

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