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Employment law changes coming into effect in April 2012

03 April 2012 #Employment


The following changes came into force on 6 April 2012. 

Unfair Dismissal

Significantly employees whose employment is due to start on or after 6 April will be subject to an increase in the qualifying period for unfair dismissal. The period has increased from one to two years. The order bringing the changes into force can be found here. The impact of this change has been the subject of considerable debate.

Employment tribunal procedure

A number of change to tribunal practice and procedure are coming into effect.

  • Judges to sit alone on unfair dismissal cases: A judge sitting alone without the presence of any lay members will be able to hear unfair dismissal cases, unless ordered otherwise by the judge. This will affect all cases heard on or after 6 April. The government has stated that progress on this change will be reviewed after a year. The order bringing this changes into force can be found here.
  • Witness statements: Unless directed otherwise by a judge or tribunal, where witness statements are used, they will stand as evidence in chief and be taken as ‘read’ at the hearing. This applies to all cases presented on or after 6 April. This practice is frequently already adopted in Tribunal.
  • Deposit orders: The maximum deposit that a tribunal can order a party to pay will increase from £500 to £1,000. The order can be made where the party’s claim has little reasonable prospect of success and will affect cases presented on or after 6 April.   
  • Cost awards: Cases presented on or after 6 April will benefit from an increase in the amount of costs that an employment tribunal can award, without referring the case to the county court for detailed assessment. The maximum amount of costs will increase from £10,000 to £20,000. 
  • Witness expenses: The government will withdraw state funded witness expenses and this will affect cases heard on or after 6 April. Tribunals will have the power to direct parties to bear the expenses of any witness.

Statutory payment rates

From April 2012, the standard weekly rates will increase for the following payments:

  • Statutory maternity pay, statutory paternity pay and statutory adoption pay: these will increase with effect from 6 April from £128.73 to £135.45 and the weekly earnings threshold will rise from £102 to £107.
  • Statutory sick pay: this will increase on 6 April from £81.60 to £85.85, while the weekly earnings threshold will rise from £102 to £107.
  • Maternity allowance: this will increase on 9 April from £128.73 to £135.45.

There are also changes affecting tax and pension rates, including: income tax personal allowance; taxable bands; National Insurance contributions; and pensions lifetime allowance.

Compromise agreements - Compromising discrimination claims

A drafting anomaly in section 147 of the Equality Act 2010 (which sets out the conditions for a valid compromise agreement) will be rectified by The Equality Act 2010 (Amendment) Order 2012. The amendment will clarify that under the compromise agreement, a solicitor negotiating exit terms or bringing a claim on an employee’s behalf can also be their “independent adviser.” This is a technical issue which has concerned employment lawyers when completing compromise agreements.

Apprentices

There have been various announcements recently in this area. Section 32(2)(b) of the Apprenticeships, Skills, Children and Learning Act 2009 states that an apprenticeship agreement entered into under the Act must be in the “prescribed form”. The Apprenticeships (Form of Apprenticeship Agreement) Regulations 2012 (SI 2012/844), which come into force on 6 April, specify that the prescribed form must contain the basic terms of employment required to be given to employees under section 1 of ERA 1996 plus a statement as to the trade or skill for which the apprentice is to be trained.

Contracting out

From 6 April, contracting out of the second state pension on a money purchase basis is being abolished. Employers will need to consider whether to issue employees with a statement of changes to the terms of their employment.

Clarkslegal, specialist Employment lawyers in London, Reading and throughout the Thames Valley.
For further information about this or any other Employment matter please contact Clarkslegal's employment team by email at employmentunit@clarkslegal.com by telephone 020 7539 8000 (London office), 0118 958 5321 (Reading office) or by completing the form on this page.

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