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Employment law changes from 6 April 2012

From 6 April 2012 the following employment law changes took effect:

1. The continuous service requirement for employees starting jobs on or after 6 April 2012 will increase to two years for unfair dismissal claims. Employees who started before 6 April 2012 will remain under the old regime, a years service. We are unlikely to see the true effect of this rule change until 6 April 2013.

2. Judges will be allowed to sit alone on unfair dismissal claims, where there are no complaints of discrimination or any other detriment. It is likely that all single issue, unfair dismissal claims will be listed to be heard by a single judge. Parties can however, make an application, for members to be present. Unsurprisingly, judges can decide they need their lay members (the trade union and HR representative) to make a decision on the issues to be decided on the day of the hearing (which may lead to postponements).

Unfortunately there is no further guidance in respect to the types of cases, judges will be allowed to sit alone, this will be decided on a case by case basis.

3. Witness statements shall be taken as read and ‘shall be the witnesses evidence in chief’. This is going to particularly impact on employees and employers who chose to draft their own witness statement (no doubt to save cost). Parties should take great care in drafting precise witness statements, if crucial details/information are missing, the witness will have to rely on the opposing advocate or the tribunal to ask them the appropriate question to bring the evidence to the tribunals attention.

Tribunals will be empowered to make a costs order if attendance of certain witnesses was not ‘necessary’ in deciding the issues before the tribunal and was seen as being a ‘time wasting’ exercise.

4. The tribunal will be granted the power to request parties to pay witness expense.

5. Deposit orders have been increased from £500 to £1,000.

The consultations for the introduction of fees for bringing claims and pre-tribunal conciliation continue – and I will ensure you are all kept updated.

Samira Cakali

Samira Cakali is a pragmatic and approachable solicitor advocate with extensive contentious and non-contentious experience in the fields of employment law as well as civil litigation, within a range of commercial businesses from SME’s to multinationals as well as senior executives.

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