Government unveils plans to reduce employment tribunal claims

The Government has put forward proposals to improve the way workplace disputes are handled and to reduce the number of cases going to employment tribunals.

It says it wants to give businesses the confidence to take on more staff and boost the economy.

The key proposals are:

  • Increase the qualifying period for employees to be able to bring a claim for unfair dismissal from one to two years. It’s hoped this will reduce the number of disputes that go to Employment Tribunals.
  • Encourage parties to resolve disputes between themselves as early as possible – requiring all claims to be lodged with Acas (Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service) in the first instance to allow pre-claim conciliation to be offered. This also includes introducing settlement offers to encourage parties to make reasonable offers of settlement to avoid tribunal hearings and encouraging parties to consider other forms of early dispute resolution such as mediation.
  • Speeding up the tribunal process – extending the jurisdictions where judges would sit alone to include unfair dismissal, introducing the use of legal officers to deal with certain case management functions and taking witness statements as read.
  • Tackling weak and vexatious claims – providing the Employment Tribunals with a range of more flexible case management powers so that weaker cases can be dealt with in a way that does not mean disproportionate costs for employers.
  • Increase the provision of information in order to reduce speculative claims. This would require more information on the nature of the claim being made and to include a statement of loss. It’s intended to help parties to decide whether to agree a settlement offer or proceed to a tribunal hearing.
  • Withdraw the payment of expenses to encourage parties to either settle earlier or reduce the number of witnesses they call.
  • Introduce financial penalties for employers found to have breached rights – aimed at encouraging greater compliance from employers and thus a reduction in the number of tribunal cases.

Tribunal claims reached a record figure of 236,000 last year - a 56% increase on 2009.

The proposals are now subject to a public consultation but ministers say they want to see them implemented as quickly as possible.

We shell keep clients informed of developments. Please contact us if you would like more information.

to chat