Minister of State for Education and Business, Matthew Hancock, has reportedly hailed figures showing a fall in the number of tribunal cases in the last three months of 2013 by a whopping 79%. These figures are gathered after tighter regulations no longer permitted claimants to bring cases for free, but instead had to pay fees of up to £1,200. In addition to this, the time frame for which a worker must spend within a job before being eligible to bring forward a claim doubled from one year to two. But his astonishing apparent attack on employees may well backfire in the wake of an on-going legal challenge to the fee regime, as Unison presses ahead to the Court of Appeal.
He said small businesses had been “ruthlessly exploited” by workers “trying to cash in” under the old system. The figures demonstrated the scale of the false allegations that had been made against blameless employers, he said.
The reforms were put in place as part of the Government’s drive to streamline the employment tribunal process, with hope that employers would be more willing to hire new staff because the threat of being sued if employment did not work out after 12 months had been lifted.
While some employers will be breathing a sigh of relief as these changes to employment law come into place, it is however, as always with exceptions. In certain circumstances, dismissals are automatically considered to be unfair, and in those cases employees are not required to have two years’ service before making a claim. These include (but are not limited to) discrimination and whistleblowing claims.
It is also advisable to take into consideration the reaction of unions, preparing for any additional changes to be made through their appeal.
There is a counter position to Hancock’s robust opinions – UNISON, the UK’s largest union, has challenged the Government’s decision to introduce employment tribunal fees. Dave Prentis, General Secretary of UNISON has said “The bottom line is that the Government should not put a price on justice. We strongly believe that these fees are unfair and should be dropped, which is what we will argue in the Court of Appeal.” If successful it is highly likely that the new fee regime will have to be further amended or withdrawn, and Unison are bound to cite Hancock’s bombastic remarks as evidence in their effort to show that the UK government has gone too far in limiting employee’s access to justice.
If you are unsure if an employee is eligible to make a claim against you, myhrdept can advise you on the necessary steps to follow. We will also provide procedures to ensure employment situations are dealt with fairly to save on any unpleasant issues arising further down the line.
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