New proposals for resolving workplace disputesFriday, January 28th, 2011
On 27 January, the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) and the Tribunals Service published a joint consultation document entitled Resolving workplace disputes: A consultation, setting out the latest Government proposals for reforming employment laws.
These new proposals are set against a backdrop of an ever increasing number of Tribunal claims – 236,000 in 2010 – with average costs to businesses of £3,800 per claim, plus costs to the taxpayer of a further £1,900.
The proposals set out in this consultation cover:
- greater use of alternative dispute resolution tools, such as mediation
- requiring all claims to be submitted to Acas initially instead of to the Tribunals Service, and allowing up to a month for pre-claim conciliation in all cases
- providing more flexible powers to strike out weaker cases and issue deposit orders; increasing deposit and cost limits for weak and vexatious claims to £1,000 and £20,000 respectively
- encouraging settlements by
- requiring additional information about the nature of a claim and a statement of loss for claims involving monetary compensation
- requiring rejected settlement offers to be registered with the Employment Tribunal in order to identify the costs incurred by the other party where the Tribunal subsequently makes a less favourable award
- allowing witness statements to be taken as read in all hearings
- withdrawing expenses payments in order to promote earlier settlements and reducing the number of unnecessary witnesses called
- extending the jurisdictions where judges can sit alone in tribunal hearings to include unfair dismissal; removing the general requirement for tripartite panels in Employment Appeal Tribunals
- introducing fee charging mechanisms in employment tribunals
- increasing qualification periods for unfair dismissal from one to two years
- promoting compliance by introducing financial penalties for employers found to have breached rights
- reviewing the formulae for calculating employment tribunal awards and statutory redundancy payment limits.
The consultation closes on 20 April 2011.