It has been known for some time that the qualifying period for the right to bring an unfair dismissal claim will be doubled to two years on 6 April. However, it has only recently been confirmed that the new qualifying period will apply only to new employees starting work on or after that date.

Thanks to an announcement in Parliament last month, we also know that there will be some immediate changes to the way tribunals are run in April. Employment judges will be able to sit alone when hearing unfair dismissal claims, and witnesses will no longer be paid their expenses by the Tribunals Service. There will also be changes to the limits for costs awards (which will rise to £20,000) and deposit orders (which will increase from £500 to £1000). However, the planned radical overhaul of the employment tribunal rules of procedure will not happen until 2013.

There are plenty of other changes in the pipeline which require primary legislation (see our briefing for more information). These include plans to enhance the role of the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS) and introduce financial penalties on employers. No precise timetable has been announced for these changes - they will be introduced "when parliamentary time allows".