Many changes are planned for this year. John Charlton explores how they might influence employment practices.
Employment law fans must be looking forward to the rest of 2012 with gusto: it promises much on the legislative, consultative, industrial relations and economic fronts.
The latter two look like being rocky for the UK with little overall growth and the prospect of rising unemployment and public sector strife. The first two may bring the sort of change many employers want. Or they may not.
Employers are generally downbeat about growth prospects. For example, according to a January 2012 survey of chief financial officers (CFOs) from FTSE 350 companies, conducted by Deloitte, a return to a recession is their number-two concern, with the euro at number one. Deloitte chief economist Ian Stewart says: "CFOs are working on the assumption that Britain will fall back into recession. They see a 54% chance of a 'double dip', up from 27% a year ago. They enter 2012 with a focus on cutting costs and increasing cash flow."
This will probably result in more lay-offs along with those likely in the public sector. The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development's (CIPD) annual barometer report for 2012 predicts that the number of those in work in the UK will fall by 120,000 while the unemployment rate will reach 8.8%, or 2.85 million people. This trend, plus possible public sector unrest over job cuts and pensions, may make interesting times for employers.
They will have much to consider on the employment law front as proposals set out last year progress. Many were put forward by business secretary Vince Cable last November. He promised: an overhaul of employment tribunal processes and regulations; the extension of the period worked before unfair dismissal claims can be lodged from one to two years; compulsory pre-claim conciliation via Acas; and streamlining the tribunal system. From April 2012, says the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS), all unfair dismissal claims will go to Acas in the first instance.
Promises and prediction