The Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill, introduced on 23rd May 2012, contains measures to implement the Government’s reforms to employment law. In summary, the proposals include:
- imposing a duty on applicants to attempt conciliation through ACAS prior to submitting tribunal proceedings;
- introducing legal officers to determine some tribunal claims;
- a possible change in the calculation of unfair dismissal compensation;
- imposing financial penalties on employers where ‘aggravated features’ are present, for example, malicious intent or repeated breaches;
- renaming compromise agreements as ‘settlement agreements’.
The Children and Families Bill will also contain proposals for flexible parental leave and flexible working for both parents.
As part of its ‘Red Tape Challenge’, the Government is consulting on proposals to abolish various employment law provisions, including:
- statutory discrimination questionnaires;
- the third party harassment provisions in the Equality Act 2010 under which an employer may be liable for harassment of its employees by third parties such as customers or visitors; and
- the public sector equality duty in the Equality Act 2010 which requires public authorities to have regard to eliminating discrimination and advancing equality when exercising their functions.
The CRB has issued new identity checking guidelines, effective from 28th May 2012. These will run in parallel with the existing guidance until 31st August 2012, when the existing guidance will cease to apply. The changes require documents to be produced from agencies which undertake stringent identity verification and should therefore make it harder for individuals to conceal previous criminal records by changing their name.
From 10th September 2012, new vetting requirements will apply to employers, voluntary organisations and charities who engage people to work with vulnerable groups. For example, vetting will focus on work involving close and unsupervised contact with vulnerable groups; the minimum age for CRB checks will be 16; and applicants will have a right to request a review of police information disclosed in an enhanced CRB check. In December 2012, the ISA and the CRB will be merged into a single body to be known as the ‘Disclosure and Barring Service’.