Further to our briefing looking back at employment law changes in 2012, in this briefing we consider what lies ahead next year in terms of legislative changes. It reveals a large number of proposals at various stages of development, from consultations to draft legislation, leaving employers struggling to plan in the absence of certainty.

We do expect to see many of these changes crystallise during 2013, as legislation is approved and codes of practice and guidance finalised, and we will continue to help you keep track of these developments. In addition to our timely e-briefings, we produce a monthly snap-shot of notable cases and planned legislative changes. Our December 2012 summary can be viewed by clicking here.  In addition, we have a comprehensive guide to recent and pending employment law changes here.

A look ahead at employment law changes in 2013

1 February

Employment tribunal award limits will rise, for example, the limit on the amount of a week's pay increases from £430 to £450 and the maximum compensatory award for unfair dismissal goes up from £72,300 to £74,200.

Before 8 March

The Government has confirmed that before the deadline of 8 March set by the EU Parental Leave Directive, regulations will increase unpaid parental leave from 13 to 18 weeks.

6 April

The Government has stated its intention to reduce the 90-day minimum period for collective redundancy consultation, replacing it with either a single 30-day period, or a shortened 45-day period, in “Spring 2013”.

Summer 2013

Last summer, the Ministry of Justice announced its intention to introduce employment tribunal fees in the summer of 2013. Final tribunal fee proposals include: an issue fee of £160 or £250, depending on claim; similarly, a hearing fee of £230 or £950; and an EAT issue fee of £400 and £1200 hearing fee. Tribunals will have the power to order the unsuccessful party to reimburse fees paid by the successful party and a fee remission system will operate for those who cannot afford to pay.

1 October

The Government is aiming to introduce changes to directors’ pay in quoted companies, involving an increase in shareholders' influence on pay through enhanced voting rights, on this date.

Other changes which may be implemented during 2013 – date unknown

The changes below are expected to be introduced during 2013, however, some may slip into 2014 reflecting competing Parliamentary and Civil Service workloads:

  • The Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill will receive Royal Assent in 2013 and the following changes (which may be amended before Royal Assent) are expected to be phased in during 2013 and into 2014:
    • The Equality Act provisions providing for discrimination questionnaires and employer liability for harassment of an employee by a third party will be repealed.
    • Provisions for equal pay audits to be ordered by a Tribunal, where an employer has broken equal pay and/or sex discrimination laws related to pay, will be introduced.
    • Pre-termination negotiations conducted with a view to agreeing terms for ending employment will become inadmissible in most unfair dismissal claims, except where the employer has acted “improperly”.
    • Mandatory pre-claim Acas conciliation will be introduced whereby prospective claimants must provide certain information to Acas who will endeavour to conciliate a settlement, before a claim can proceed.
    • A power to enable legal officers to determine some tribunal claims without the need for a hearing will be introduced, but further regulations will be needed (to identify which claims, the appeal process and more) before this change can be implemented.
    • A number of changes relating to Tribunal awards and orders will be introduced including a tribunal discretion to impose a financial penalty (maximum £5000) on employers breaching rights where there are one or more aggravating features and a new power providing for a change to the current cap on unfair dismissal awards
    • A new requirement that qualifying whistle-blowing disclosures must be made in the public interest will be introduced.
  • “Employee shareholders” will be introduced: in return for shares (with a minimum value of £2,000 and subject to a maximum £50,000 exemption from capital gains tax), employee shareholders will give up certain employment rights including unfair dismissal, rights to request flexible working and statutory redundancy pay. They will also need to give longer notice to return from maternity, paternity or adoption leave.
  • It is expected that Tribunal procedural rules will be amended to include an initial paper sift carried out by a judge and a new procedure for preliminary hearings that combine separate pre-hearing reviews and case management discussions.

Finally, it should be noted that other proposals for change are also in the pipeline, for example, a consultation on TUPE and reform of the Working Time Regulations. However, firm details are still awaited.