The Government published its consultation on reforming the employment tribunal system on 27 January 2011. As anticipated, the key changes to be considered are:

  • an increase in the minimum qualifying period for unfair dismissal claims to two years (please see our December e-update for further information in this regard); and
  • the requirement that a fee be paid in order to lodge a tribunal claim.

The consultation will remain open until 20 April 2011, so it will be some time before any changes are actually implemented. However, the proposals are aimed at decreasing the number of tribunal claims lodged by employees in response to employers' concerns about the number of unfounded claims currently being allowed to proceed.

Other proposals include:

  • a requirement that all claims be submitted to ACAS before the tribunal in an attempt to encourage pre-claim conciliation;
  • an extension of the tribunal's power to deal with vexatious claims appropriately;
  • an increase in the cap on costs that a tribunal can award from £10,000 to £20,000;
  • the introduction of automatic financial penalties for employers found to have breached employment rights, on top of the ordinary compensation already payable. The penalty would generally be half the amount of the total award made to the claimant, and would be payable to the Exchequer;
  • an increase in the number of cases which tribunal judges can hear alone; and
  • a review of the formula used for calculating employment tribunal awards and statutory redundancy payment limits.