Mills & Reeve responds to the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement

Martin Brewer, employment partner at the Birmingham office of national law firm Mills & Reeve LLP,  said:

“Changes to employment law as outlined in the Chancellor’s statement may not be as significant as businesses had hoped for.

“The extension to two years’ service for ordinary unfair dismissal claims will reduce the number of those claims.  However, it may have the unintended consequence of employees with less than two years’ service bringing other claims (such as discrimination or whistle blowing claims) to get around the two year qualifying period.

“Procedural changes designed to increase the potential for conciliating disputes are, on the face of it a good idea.  Workers wishing to lodge claims with the tribunals will need to lodge them with ACAS (Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service) first.

“But the question will be whether ACAS will have the resources to undertake this additional work.  There is also a danger that the knock-on effect on time limits will result in satellite litigation so, what was maybe intended as a breathing space could actually drag out the process.

“More significant is the proposal to charge a fee for bringing claims, which should weed out speculative claims.  Of course, the unintended effect here is that employees with genuine claims may not be able to afford to pay to enforce their rights and therefore a new breed of ‘no win no fee’ litigation may grow up around this.

“Proposals for a protected conversation about severance might encourage employers to tackle issues such as performance more readily.

“The plans are designed to reduce the number of Employment Tribunal claims, ease the burden on businesses and give the economy a shot in the arm.  Some of what’s proposed may well go some way to achieving this objective but the devil will be in the detail – so the jury’s still out.”


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