Pictons Highlights Important Changes in Employment Law in April and May 2014

There are a number of interesting changes affecting employment law which come into force over the next couple of months. These have far reaching consequences for employers and employees alike. Already, the changes in the law and the introduction of fees has seen a 76% drop in cases going to the employment tribunal.

The current changes which are due and likely to be of most pressing interest are as follows:

Mandatory early ACAS (Advisory Conciliation and Arbitration Service) Intervention

From 6 April 2014, early ACAS conciliation will be available but will actually become mandatory for claims presented on or after 6 May 2014. This means that Claimants who wish to bring a claim must submit details of their dispute to ACAS at which point they will be offered pre-claim early conciliation for a period of one month.

If conciliation is refused by either party or is unsuccessful, the Claimant can go ahead and bring their claim. If parties enter into early conciliation this has the effect of ‘stopping the clock’ on the limitation period by which the claim must be lodged with the employment tribunal.

Financial Penalties for Employers Who Lose The Case

For claims presented on or after 6 April 2014, employment tribunals will have the power to order a financial penalty against a losing employer in specified circumstances. It is suggested that a losing employer who has made a genuine mistake should not be penalised but where there are aggravating features involving malice or negligence, a fine between £100 to £5000 can be imposed.

These changes are undoubtedly introduced to deter litigation or at the very least an attempt to make potential parties to an action focus their minds on the possible consequences of their options.

Aye Limbin Glassey, Head of Employment Law and a Partner at Pictons explains:
“Conciliation can prove useful to an employer as they may gain more insight into a potential claim. It also gives them the opportunity to settle matters. However because the conciliation process can extend the time by which the employee can bring a claim to an employment tribunal it undoubtedly creates a longer period of uncertainty.

“It is also worth noting that during this period of conciliation, ACAS cannot advise a party as to the strength or merit of their position or whether the terms of settlement are reasonable, taking into account all the factors. I will certainly be supporting and advising my clients through this important period.”