As part of the Government’s ongoing review of employment legislation, the following changes to employment law have come into effect on 25 June 2013 pursuant to the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act 2013:
Introduction of political opinion/belief discrimination
The qualifying period for unfair dismissal (two years for employees who commenced work on or after 6 April 2012) will no longer apply where the sole or principal reason for the dismissal is because of the employee’s political opinion or belief, as is already the case for other types of discrimination. This applies to all dismissals where the effective date of termination is on or after 25 June 2013. The ‘normal’ discrimination protection (as per the Equality Act 2010) will not however apply to political opinion/belief: an unfair dismissal claim will be the relevant route for complaints in this area.
Changes to whistleblowing protection
For all disclosures made on or after 25 June 2013, workers will have to demonstrate that they have the reasonable belief that they are making disclosures in the public interest to qualify for protection under the Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998. Note that the disclosure does not have to be in the public interest in reality, provided the employee reasonably believed that it was at the relevant time.
The ‘good faith’ requirement to qualify for protection has been removed for all disclosures made on or after 25 June 2013 but, if the disclosure is in bad faith, the tribunal has the power to reduce any award by up to 25%.
Employers can now be held vicariously liable for any detriment suffered by a whistleblower and personal liability has also been introduced for co-workers who victimise whistleblowers for all disclosures made on or after 25 June 2013.
Finally, the definition of ‘worker’ has been widened to include numerous NHS contractors and the Government now has the power to introduce further categories of ‘worker’ entitled to whistleblowing protection in the future.
Changes to rules for awarding deposit orders and costs
Tribunals now have the power to make a deposit order in relation to a specific part of a claim or response only, rather than the whole claim. Tribunals can now also make a costs order for payment of witnesses expenses, where a preparation time order has also been made.
Cap on compensatory award for unfair dismissal
The Government now has the power to introduce a cap on the compensatory award for unfair dismissal claims, with the current intention being to cap the award at some point in the near future at the lower of one year’s pay and the existing limit (£74,200).
Changes to indexation of ‘a week’s pay’ and other tribunal awards
The formula for calculating a week’s pay and other tribunal awards (such as statutory redundancy pay) has changed in order that it will now be rounded up to the nearest £1, in line with the RPI for the previous September, on 6 April each year, rather than the nearest £10 or £100.
EAT judges to sit alone
The norm will now be that appeals in the Employment Appeal Tribunal are heard by a judge alone unless a full panel is ordered.