The Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill received Royal Assent on 25 April 2013, making it the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act 2013 and opening the door for a number of employment law changes.
The new Act will bring about key changes to employment law and tribunal procedures, some of which will come into force as early as June 2013.
These include an amendment to the Employment Rights Act 1996, which will mean whistleblowing disclosures will not be protected unless the employee believes they are in the public interest, as well as changes to the “good faith” requirements relating to whistleblowing disclosures.
Also, from June 2013 the two-year qualifying period for unfair dismissal claims will no longer apply where the reason for the dismissal is the employee’s political opinions or affiliation.
The Government confirmed that the provisions in the Act simplifying the procedures and costs of deciding tribunal cases will come into force on 25 June 2013.
A number of other changes under the act will come into force in October 2013 or April 2014. These are likely to include:
- shareholders being given binding votes on pay policy;
- repeal of a section of the Equality Act 2010, which makes an employer liable where an individual is harassed by a third party;
- repeal of the questionnaire procedure under the Equality Act 2010, whereby an individual can apply to obtain information about discrimination from the employer and use this as evidence in tribunal proceedings;
- the addition of “caste” to the definition of “race” under the Equality Act 2010;
- that power will be give to tribunals to impose financial penalties against employers where they have been found to have breached employment rights;
- that details of a proposed employment tribunal claim be given to Acas by potential claimants before commencing proceedings, and that Acas will offer the parties the opportunity to engage in conciliation with a conciliation officer; and
- that tribunals hearing an unfair dismissal claim will be unable to take into account discussions between an employer and an employee or an offer made prior to the termination of employment with the aim of ending the contract on agreed terms.
In addition, compromise agreements will be renamed “settlement agreements” to encourage parties to settle employment disputes. A statutory code of practice will also be introduced, setting out the principles for using settlement agreements, which will include model letters, a model agreement and supporting guidance.
A detailed implementation timetable will be published by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills shortly.