Hot off the Press!

If you have read the tips on the New Pension Regulations you may be surprised to read “‘One in One out’ – The Second Statement of New Regulation” a web only Coalition publication dated September 2011. This tells us the extent to which the Government is liberating business from red tape.

On page 14 are three proposals which are of particular effect for the business I conduct with my clients. These are;

To extend the qualifying period for bringing unfair dismissal claims from one year to two

The qualifying period was reduced to one year because two was potentially discriminatory against women. The justification for extending it on ideological grounds will require some twisting and turning. In addition an extension of the qualifying period may be argued to affect young people entering the labour market and older people adopting new careers and job roles disproportionately. Age UK already has concerns about the government approach to employment protection saying of the attitude to the Equalities Act ‘The Equalities Act provides essential rights for some of the most vulnerable in society. It is disappointing that it continues to be equated with meaningless bureaucracy as part of the government red tape challenge, rather than an expression of core values in our society’.

All that said we now understand the proposal to extend the period to two years was a typographical error and is not a proposal (yet).

To introduce a fee for bringing a claim to the employment tribunal in order to stop vexatious claims

It remains to be seen what level of fee is proposed. However a fee does not prevent vexatious claims so much as act as a barrier to justice for the poorest and most disadvantaged. The term ‘vexatious’ describes legal proceedings put forward on insufficient grounds and with the intention of causing annoyance to the defendant. Vexatious claims could still be brought by those able to afford it but I wonder how many claims are indeed vexatious or are driven by a genuine sense of injustice.

To remove the Equality Act requirement on business to take reasonable steps to prevent harassment of staff by third parties on the basis it is something business has no control over and to save £0.3 million.

Off we go to check out Equality Act 2010: At s.40 (2)(b) it says if the employer failed to take such steps as would have been reasonably practical to prevent the third party from harassing the employee, then the employer is liable; but s.40 (3) makes clear that is the case only if the employer knows that the employee has been harassed on two other occasions. It seems to me the business has a clear choice here and none of the businesses I have the privilege to work with would abandon an employee to needless harassment. But to save £300,000 across the entire UK economy (£1.4 trillion GDP) the Government proposes to do just that!