Posted: Wednesday 9 May 2012
Several proposed changes to employment regulations have been announced in the Queen’s Speech today as part of the Government’s legislative programme for the next parliamentary session, continuing the Government’s ongoing program of employment law reform.
Two key Bills relating to employment law were highlighted in the speech.
The first of these is the Children and Families Bill, which will aim to “make parental leave more flexible so both parents may share parenting responsibilities and balance work and family commitments”.
I suspect, based on previous announcements, that this will involve something along the lines of 18 weeks of maternity leave followed by 34 weeks of parental leave with the parental leave being shared out between both parents.
The second Bill of relevance to employment law is the Enterprise & Regulatory Reform Bill, which amongst other things will endeavour to overhaul the employment tribunal system and transform the dispute resolution landscape.
It was indicated that part of the reform for the Employment Tribunal system will be to provide more options for early resolution of disputes through ACAS. This is likely to relate to the use of early ACAS conciliation which has been referred to previously by the Government. Again, based on previous comments, this is may involve parties who wish to raise an Employment Tribunal claim requiring to notify ACAS in the first instance. ACAS would then explore whether the parties to the action were willing to consider conciliation. If they were then the time limit for raising a claim will stop whilst conciliation is attempted. If the conciliation is unsuccessful then the claimant would have a further month to raise their claim from the time that the conciliation comes to an end.
One of the most significant changes which could also be introduced by this Bill is a system of fees for Employment Tribunal claims. A consultation on this closed in March and the outcome is awaited. Two proposals were put forward - one whereby a fee would be paid when the claim was raised and also when a hearing was fixed and a further proposal whereby a fee would be paid at the time of raising the claim only.
Despite the reports in the media, there was no mention of the extension of the right to request flexible working to all employees, whilst the Telegraph’s prediction that changes from Adrian Beecroft’s controversial report would be announced seem to have been unfounded.
Whilst the Queen’s Speech provides us with a useful insight into what lies ahead, only time will tell the true extent of the changes proposed by the Government. As ever, further details will follow in future employment blogs.