Most new laws affecting businesses are introduced on one of two common commencement dates each year – either 6 April or 1 October.
From 6 April 2012, the unfair dismissal qualifying period increased from one year to two years for those whose employment began on or after that date. Employees who started working for their employer prior to 6 April will continue to be eligible after one year’s service.
In addition, from 6 April the Employment Tribunals (Constitution and Rules of Procedure) (Amendment) Regulations 2012 made the following changes to the rules that govern employment tribunal (ET) procedure:
- Employment judges can now sit alone in unfair dismissal claims without the need for lay members, unless directed otherwise;
- Witness statements can be provided in writing, as opposed to the witness reading their own statement aloud, unless there has been an order given to the contrary;
- Where the ET believes that a party has acted unreasonably or the claim is vexatious, costs of up to £20,000 can be awarded to the other party. The previous limit was £10,000;
- The maximum amount of the deposit payable by an employee who wishes to proceed in a case where the ET believes that their claim has little prospect of success increased from £500 to £1,000; and
- Witnesses can no longer claim expenses from the Tribunal Service. Employment judges have the power to order a party calling a witness to cover that witness’s expenses in certain circumstances, however, and to direct that the witnesses’ expenses be paid by the losing party.
The Government has also carried out a consultation on proposals to introduce a fee for those wishing to bring an ET claim.