Employment Law Reforms 2012. Clarification and Timings

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The Department of Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) has confirmed that the increase in the qualifying period for unfair dismissal claims to two years will only apply to those starting a new job on or after 6th April 2012. Employees whose employment started before 6th April will remain subject to the one Year qualifying period. Thus, someone with 18 months’ continuous employment on 6 April will not lose their right to claim unfair dismissal, and an employee with 11 months’ service on that date will still only have to wait one month before being able to claim. The regulations to extend the qualifying period will be published shortly and will be subject to Parliamentary debate.

BIS also stated that it will not implement the revised EU Directive on Parental Leave (No. 2010/18) in March 2012. Instead, due to the ongoing Modern Workplaces policy development, the Government will use the additional year’s grace allowed by Art. 2(3) of the Directive and implement the changes in March 2013. Consequently, the number of weeks of unpaid parental leave will increase to 18 per parent per child ahead of the other changes proposed in the consultation for 2015, such as a new flexible system of shared parental leave and an extension of the right to request flexible working.

Further details on the intended dates for a number of reforms announced last year as part of the Employment Law Review were given by the Employment Relations Minister Edward Davey in a written answer to Parliament on 17 January. Subject to parliamentary approval, changes to be effected via secondary legislation – witness statements being taken as read, the removal of witness expenses, judges sitting alone in unfair dismissal cases and changes to limits for cost awards and deposit orders – will come into force on 6 April 2012. Measures requiring primary legislation, including early conciliation, financial penalties for employers, judges sitting alone in the EAT as a default arrangement and an amended formula for uprating tribunal awards and redundancy payments, will be implemented when parliamentary time allows. The revised procedural code for employment tribunals expected as a result of Mr Justice Underhill’s fundamental review of the Employment Tribunal Rules of Procedure is expected to come into force in 2013, following public consultation and subject to parliamentary approval.