Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill
Following on from our update on this Bill's progression through Parliament last month, the Bill reached Royal Assent on 25th April 2013 and has now been entered onto the statute books. The provisions contained within the Act will now be implemented from June 2013, October 2013 and April 2014 and a brief summary of those key provisions is outlined below: -
Early Conciliation – employees wishing to bring a claim against their (former) employers in an Employment Tribunal will have to contact ACAS first, who will attempt to promote a settlement between the two parties. This is likely to be brought into effect from April 2014.
‘Whistleblowing’ – with effect from June 2013; disclosures will have to be ‘in the public interest’ in order to be protected under legislation. In addition, employers can be liable if an employee is bullied or harassed by their colleagues as a result of making a disclosure, unless the employer can show that they have made all reasonable efforts to prevent this from happening.
Compensation Awards – the Secretary of State will be empowered to vary the unfair dismissal compensation limit, which currently stands at £74,200. It has already been announced by the Government that from this summer, it will limit the compensation payment to 52 weeks pay or £74,200, whichever is the lowest amount...
Pre-termination Negotiations – from this summer, any evidence of offers made and negotiations conducted during employment with a view to an agreed termination will be inadmissible in unfair dismissal cases.
Political Opinion/Beliefs – employees who are dismissed as a consequence of their political opinion/belief will be able to make a claim for unfair dismissal, without having the required qualifying service (two years for those employed on or after 6th April 2012 and one year for those employed before that date). This change will be implemented with effect from 25th June 2013.
Equality Law – as previously reported, ‘third-party harassment’ contained within the Equality Act 2010 will be repealed, as will the questionnaire procedure provisions also contained within that act. In addition, ‘Caste’ will be added to the definition of ‘Race’ within the Act and the Government will also have the power to make regulations that would require employers to conduct a ‘pay audit’ if they lose an ‘equal pay’ claim or a sex discrimination claim which is related to pay. As yet, the implementation date for these elements is unconfirmed.
Tribunal Procedures and Penalties – another area which we have been monitoring closes is the changes that the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act 2013 will have on Employment Tribunals. As well as the imposition of a charging structure, other changes to be implemented will include; Legal Officers hearing low value and straightforward claims, EAT Judges hearing cases alone and changes to deposit orders and costs. These will be implemented from this summer and a further change to be implemented from spring 2014, will see Tribunals being able to impose a financial penalty on employers who have breached an employee’s employment rights.
Health and Safety – the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 will be amended, removing the existing right of an employee to rely on a breach of health and safety legislation, in order to obtain compensation. The current law provides that where statutory health and safety regulations are not complied with leading to injury or damage, a claimant can seek compensation on the basis of the employer’s breach of those regulations (strict liability). The changes mean that it will only be possible to claim compensation for accidents which would currently constitute a breach of health and safety regulations where it can be proved by the claimant that the employer has been negligent at common law.