The Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act 2013 ("ERRA") was published on 2 May 2013 and contains the commencement dates for various changes it will implement to employment law.

On 25 June 2013 the following employment law reforms are being implemented by the ERRA:-

First of all the requirement for a qualifying period of service to bring an unfair dismissal claim will be removed where the reason for the dismissal was the political views or affiliations of the employee. This change is being brought into force in light of a decision of the European Court of Human Rights which found that the UK was in breach of the European Convention of Human Rights, by requiring an employee dismissed for this reason to have qualifying service before they could bring an unfair dismissal claim. (See my previous blog on Discrimination & Politics for further details of this case).

There are also changes to the whistleblowing laws, so that a whistleblowing case which relates to a breach of an employee's own contract of employment cannot be brought unless it is in the public interest. Also, as a result of this change, the requirement that a disclosure is made in good faith will be removed.

The Secretary of State will be permitted to vary the statutory limit of the compensatory award for unfair dismissal claims. This allows the Secretary of State to either increase or decrease the upper statutory limit and different amounts may be specified for employers of different descriptions. The explanatory notes to the ERRA give the example of there being a lower amount for small businesses. Whilst an additional cap of 12 months' pay for unfair dismissal awards will be introduced this summer it is not clear yet the extent to which the Government intends to use the power to introduce a lower cap for small businesses.

The Government will have the power to amend the Equality Act 2010 to specifically provide that discrimination on the grounds of caste as an aspect of race is unlawful. It is anticipated though that it will be a year or two before this new power is utilised.

Other changes being introduced on 25 June 2013 include:-

  • Employment Appeal Tribunal judges will normally sit alone (currently two lay people would also always hear an Employment Tribunal appeal);
  • The introduction of tribunal powers to make deposit orders in relation to a specific part of a claim or response; and
  • The abolition of the Agricultural Wages Board for England and Wales.

Most other provisions are planned to come into effect in October 2013 or April 2014.

The full ERRA can be viewed here.