We round-up three important developments affecting Employment Tribunal proceedings from 6 April 2016. The developments considered are: (i) the new rules capping postponement applications; (ii) the new penalty regime for respondents; and (iii) the increase in Tribunal awards and certain statutory payments.

New rules on postponements in Tribunal proceedings

From 6 April 2016, changes to the rules on postponing Employment Tribunal proceedings will apply. Under the new rules, each party will be limited to a maximum of two postponements per case. A third postponement application, and any application made fewer than seven days before the hearing, will only be granted in exceptional circumstances. Guidance will be published to assist Tribunal users on what may constitute exceptional circumstances.

However, these rules will not apply where:

  • The parties agree the postponement (and the Tribunal considers it is desirable in order to facilitate settlement).
  • The Tribunal considers that a postponement is necessary due to an act or omission of the Tribunal or one of the parties.
  • The postponement is required for ill-health reasons relating to an existing long-term health condition or disability.

Further, where successful applications for postponements are made fewer than seven days before a hearing, the Tribunal will also have to consider making a costs or preparation time order against the successful party.

New financial penalties for employers who fail to pay Tribunal awards or Acas settlements

From 6 April 2016, a new penalty regime will be introduced to punish respondents who fail to pay Tribunal awards or Acas settlements. Once the time limit for making payment of the award or settlement sum has expired, the following procedure will be triggered:

  • An enforcement officer will issue a warning notice stating that a penalty will be imposed unless the sum is paid by a specified date. This date will be at least 28 days from the date of the notice itself.
  • If the sum in not paid by the specified date, then the enforcement officer may issue a penalty notice imposing a financial penalty to be paid by a specified date (again, not less than 28 days from the date of the notice itself). The penalty amount will be 50% of the unpaid sum, subject to a minimum amount of £100 and a maximum amount of £5,000. The penalty payment will be paid to the Government and not to the claimant.
  • Where the respondent pays the unpaid sum and the penalty within 14 days of the penalty notice, then the penalty will be reduced by 50%.
  • The respondent has 28 days from the date of the penalty notice to appeal against the imposition of the penalty.

Increase in Tribunal awards and statutory payments

A number of awards payable under employment legislation are set to increase on 6 April 2016 including the maximum and minimum awards for unfair dismissal. The Employment Rights (Increase of Limits) Order 2016 also increases the maximum limit on a "week's pay" for the purposes of calculating statutory redundancy payments and basic awards for unfair dismissal.

A breakdown of the increases are detailed below:

  • The maximum compensatory award for unfair dismissal will increase from £78,335 to £78,962.
  • The maximum limit on a "week's pay" will increase from £475 to £479.
  • The minimum basic award for certain unfair dismissals will increase from £5,807 to £5,853.

The new figures will only apply to dismissal cases where the individual's effective date of termination falls on or after 6 April 2016.