Posted on 17 April 2014
Early conciliation via ACAS for tribunal claims
From 6 May 2014, those seeking to bring an employment tribunal claim must first contact Acas so that an attempt at early conciliation can be made. The new requirement follows last year’s wide-scale changes to the employment tribunal process, which included the introduction of fees.
To allow for this extra step, the time limit for bringing a claim is "paused" while ACAS is attempting to conciliate. Employers should be aware that the new system allows potential claimants to extend their time limit considerably. Submitting information to ACAS on the last day of the normal time limit essentially creates a two-month extension - four weeks of conciliation plus another month provided for in the legislation. If no settlement is reached in that time - or if ACAS decides that there is no prospect of a settlement being reached - ACAS will issue an "early conciliation certificate". The claimant must present this certificate when bringing any subsequent claim in the employment tribunal. Of course, it is possible that the new early conciliation process will reduce the number of claims simply by deterring potential claimants or catching out those who do not realise that they have to contact ACAS before bringing a claim.
On a positive note, recently published statistics show that claims lodged at the Employment Tribunal dropped by a massive 79% during October to December 2013, when compared with the same period in 2012. This is seen in a large part to be due to the introduction of fees in July last year which have meant that employees wishing to make a claim face finding £1200 before the claim is even heard.
Financial penalties for employers
From 6th April 2014 Tribunals will have the power to impose financial penalties against employers if they are breaching employment rights, where the breach has one or more aggravating features. If the tribunal makes an award of compensation, the amount of the penalty will be 50% of the award. The penalty is subject to a minimum threshold of £100 and an upper ceiling of £5,000.
From 30 June 2014 all employees with at least 26 weeks' service will have the right to request flexible working, in a similar manner to the rules that apply to employees with children under the age of 17 (or 18 if disabled) or are carers now. Employers will have a duty to deal with any requests in a 'reasonable' manner.
Automatic pension enrolment - extension of time to enrol
As the drive to automatic pension enrolment continues, the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills has confirmed that it will, from April 1st 2014, extend the deadline for employers to auto-enrol eligible employees into a qualifying scheme from one month to six weeks.
Covert Recordings are admissible
For some time employees have been secretly recording disciplinary and grievance hearings which has led to challenge from their employers. A recent Employment Appeal Tribunal case has held that both the public and private discussions of a disciplinary and grievance panel were admissible at the final Tribunal hearing. Therefore whilst you may have a policy that prohibits such recording, you should carry out hearings under the assumption that they may be recorded and used as evidence. This demonstrates the importance of the accuracy of the notes taken and be mindful of making inappropriate comments either to or about the employee which may be caught on tape.
For more information, please don’t hesitate to contact Viv Tolley on 01332 374417 or 07792 097374