The UK saw a number of changes to employment law which came into force on 29 July.
One of the most significant changes is the introduction of fees for submitting a claim to the employment tribunal. Claimants who issue a claim against their employer in the employment tribunal will now be required to pay a fee: an issue fee on bringing their claim and then a hearing fee prior to the hearing of their case. For the more straightforward claims, such as wages claims and redundancy payments, the issue fee is £160 and the hearing fee £230. For other claims, including unfair dismissal and discrimination, the issue fee is £250 and the hearing fee £950. Tribunal judges will have the power to order the losing party to reimburse any fees paid by the winning party.
Other changes relate to the settlement of employment claims. Compromise agreements, which are used to settle statutory employment claims, have been renamed settlement agreements. In addition pre-termination negotiations have been introduced. This means that “pre-termination negotiations” between an employer and employee will be inadmissible in ordinary unfair dismissal claims unless there has been “improper behaviour”. The provision will only prevent what is stated in the settlement offer, or during discussions about it, from being admissible in ordinary unfair dismissal proceedings, but will not prevent the fact and content of such offer or discussions being referred to in relation to other proceedings, including discrimination and breach of contract.
In addition, a new cap on the compensatory award for unfair dismissal has been introduced. This is the lower of one year’s actual pay and the current statutory maximum of £74,200.
Finally there are changes to the Employment Tribunal and Employment Appeal Tribunal rules. The main purpose of the new rules is to provide greater clarity and certainty for all parties involved in the tribunal process and to provide a framework to manage cases efficiently and, where possible, consistently. Some of the more significant changes include the introduction of a new sift stage in tribunal proceedings so that after a claim and response have been submitted, an employment judge will consider whether either should be struck out because it has no reasonable chance of success or because the tribunal does not have jurisdiction to hear the claim.