The Government has now published the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill ("ERR"), which contains a number of provisions of relevance to employers and employees. It seeks to make it easier for employers to grow the economy, by reducing the amount of red tape they face in relation to employment law.
The ERR proposes:
- a period of early conciliation with ACAS, which must take place before a claim is lodged in the Employment Tribunal;
- a cap on unfair dismissal awards of between one and three years' median earnings (so around £26,000 - £78,000) depending on the employer, or one year's earnings;
- a fine for employers of up to £5,000 in certain circumstances;
- a restriction on whistleblowing cases, so that only those who have made a disclosure in the public interest (rather than merely in their own personal interest) will be protected;
- that claimants will not be able to refer to settlement discussions in unfair dismissal claims;
- that compromise agreements will be renamed 'settlement agreements';
- a binding shareholder vote on remuneration policies in quoted companies;
- allowing one judge to hear cases in the Employment Appeal Tribunal, rather than three;
- allowing administrative staff, known as 'legal officers', to hear certain cases, if all parties agree.
The proposals contained within ERR are a mixed bag. Many of them seem sensible, but there is a risk that they could cause more problems than they seek to resolve if they are not implemented carefully. However, it is by no means certain that all of these proposals will make their way onto the statute book, since the Bill has a long way to go before it becomes law.