• Robert Spicer

Changes to employment law

Changes to employment law

The Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act 2013, which received the Royal Assent on April 25, has significantly changed employees’ rights in relation to injuries in the workplace and has made a number of changes to employment law and procedure. These changes were added at a late stage to a statute which deals with, for example: • UK Green Investment Bank • The Competition and Markets Authority • Competition reform • Reduction of legislative burdens • Copyright • Insolvency Employment These changes are made in sections 7 to 24 of the Act. Unfortunately, they cannot be read alone. In order to understand the nature of the changes, reference must be made to other statutes, to the Schedules to the 2013 Act, and to the commencement section 103. Predictably, the way in which the changes have been made operate to make employment law even more complex and inaccessible to non-lawyers who wish to enforce their employment rights. The changes, in summary, relate to the following: (note: this illustrates the breadth of scope of the new material). 7. Duty to contact ACAS before starting proceedings (see also Schedule 1) 8. Extension of limitation periods for conciliation (see also Schedule 2) 9. Relevant proceedings for conciliation 10. ACAS: prohibition on disclosure of information 11. Legal officers 12. Employment Appeal Tribunal composition 13. Dismissal for political opinions: no qualifying period 14. Confidentiality of negotiations 15. Limit of compensatory award 16. Power of employment tribunal to impose financial penalty (see also Schedule 3) 17, 18, 19. Protected disclosures 20. Worker, meaning 21. Tribunal procedure 22. Indexation of amounts 23. Compromise agreements 24. Transitional provisions. The most significant provisions for employees and legal advisers would seem to be sections 15, 17 to 20 and 21. Section 15, for example, a provision of grinding complexity, gives the Secretary of State power to vary the limit on compensatory awards in employment tribunals cases. Thus, although this section has been brought into force, it will have no effect until such an order is made. The new material is further complicated by the commencement provisions, which bring different sections into force at different dates, some at an unforeseeable date in the future. Sections 10 and 24 came into force on the day that the Act was passed (April 25, 2013). Sections 12, 13, 15, 17, 18, 20 and 23 will come into force two months after the Act was passed (June 25, 2013). The remainder of the new sections will come into force by statutory instrument at an unknown date. Section 10 – ACAS: prohibition on disclosure of information – is now in force. Section 24 – transitional provisions – is also now in force. The best advice for employees should be – don’t attempt to understand this material unless you are absolutely determined, and seek specialised legal advice. However, where you will obtain this advice without bankrupting yourself is a largely unanswerable question.

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