From 6th April 2012, a number of changes come into effect:
- the 1 year qualifying period for ‘normal’ Unfair Dismissal protection increases to 2 years (also applies to the right to request written reasons for dismissal), meaning that anyone starting a new job on or after 6th April 2012 will now take two years to gain Unfair Dismissal rights.
- Employment tribunals are to have increased powers in terms of the level of costs orders they can award against a party, increasing from £10,000 to £20,000.
- Judges will begin sitting alone in Unfair Dismissal cases at ET, losing the longstanding benefit of the ‘industrial jury’ of lay members except in what are likely to be only exceptional cases. A recent survey showed that the majority of ET Judges believed that lay members contributed well to the fairness of ET Hearings. After decades of the ‘industrial jury’ being key in Unfair Dismissal cases that jury will now be lost and most of those cases will be heard by a Judge alone.
- It is anticipated that ETs will begin to treat all witness statements as ‘read’ rather than requiring a witness to read aloud the statement within an ET Hearing.
- It is anticipated that witness expenses will be withdrawn. This will, of course, hit Claimants harder than employers as most employers’ witnesses are managers and, of course, remain employed by the employer who will nearly always be meeting their travel and attendance costs.
For further information regarding these changes, please contact David Sorensen, Partner.