The new protection for pre-termination negotiations introduced by the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act will come into force on 29 July 2013. This will enable employers to hold termination settlement discussions prior to starting a disciplinary or performance management process without the risk of the discussion being referred to in an ordinary unfair dismissal claim, unless there has been “improper conduct”. However, there is no protection if an employee brings an automatically unfair dismissal or discrimination claim, and few employers are likely to be in a position to discount the possibility of such claims. See our blog on the accompanying Acas Code for further details.

By way of reminder, other changes coming into force in June/July are:

  • Whistleblowing protection changed with effect from 25 June 2013: (i) employers can be vicariously liable where a whistleblower’s colleagues subject them to detriment; (ii) disclosures are only protected if, in the employee’s reasonable belief, they are in the public interest; (iii) protection is not lost if such a disclosure is made for ulterior motives (though compensation could be reduced by up to 25%, and depending on the facts employers may be able to argue that their actions are by reason of the bad faith circumstances rather than the disclosure). Employers should update their whistleblowing policies and consider staff training, particularly for managers in how to deal with bullying by colleagues.
  • From 25 June 2013, the qualifying period for unfair dismissal does not apply where the main reason for dismissal is the employee’s political opinions or affiliation.
  • Revised employment tribunal rules and fees for employment tribunal claims will apply from 29 July 2013. A briefing on the new rules will be available on our blog shortly. Judicial review applications challenging the introduction of fees have been made in England and Scotland.

The Government has also confirmed planned implementation dates for certain other proposals:

  • a draft order imposing an additional cap of 52 weeks’ pay on the unfair dismissal compensatory award has been published and is expected to be made in July 2013
  • the third party harassment provisions in the Equality Act 2010 are to be repealed from 1 October 2013
  • statutory discrimination questionnaires are to be abolished from 6 April 2014
  • tribunals are to have a discretion to order equal pay audits from October 2014.