The latest batch of employment reforms include:
- ACAS early claim conciliation is available from 6 April 2014. From 6 May 2014, claimants will only be able to lodge a claim with the Employment Tribunal if they have first referred a complaint to ACAS for early conciliation (subject to certain minor exceptions).
- Statutory discrimination questionnaires have been scrapped in relation to acts of discrimination after 6 April. Employees are now free to ask questions of their employer in any other format and employers will still have to be careful in responding, as tribunals will still be able to take any exchanges (or any failure to respond) into account.
- For tribunal claims brought from 6 April, tribunals now have a discretionary power to impose a financial penalty on an employer found to have breached a claimant's employment rights where there are aggravating circumstances.
- Also from 6 April, there is a change to the requirements to carry on providing occupational pensions following a TUPE transfer. A receiving employer who offers transferred employees a money purchase scheme now has the choice between matching the level of contributions paid by the transferring employer immediately prior to the transfer; as an alternative to matching the level of contributions paid by the employee (to a maximum of 6%).
- One change which took effect from 10 March – amendments to the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 – is also of importance to employers. The length of time that it takes for criminal convictions to become "spent" has been significantly reduced and the Act now provides that where an offender receives a custodial sentence of six months or less, the conviction will be spent at the end of 24 months from the date the sentence is completed. Job applicants do not have to disclose spent convictions and a spent conviction, or failure to disclose it, is not a proper ground for dismissing or prejudicing an employee. The Ministry of Justice has issued guidance on the new rules.