The Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act 2013

As reported recently in the media, The Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill received Royal Assent in April 2013, therefore  making it the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act 2013 which consequently will mean a number of employment law changes, some of which we have reported upon in previous editions of our e-newsletter, however these are now confirmed and will take place.  Not all dates are as yet known and we will advise accordingly as and when they are announced.

The new Act will bring about key changes to both employment law and also tribunal procedures, some of which will come into force in June 2013, so is fairly fast moving! Details of the various changes are detailed below and when known the effective dates are also detailed:

In June 2013, an amendment to the Employment Rights Act 1996, is introduced which will mean whistleblowing disclosures will not be protected unless the employee believes they are in the public interest, as well as changes to the “good faith” requirements relating to whistleblowing disclosures.   Previously this has been thought to have perhaps prevented employees blowing the whistle!

Also, from June 2013 the two-year qualifying period for unfair dismissal claims will no longer apply where the reason for the dismissal is the employee’s political opinions or affiliation.  This was perhaps a glitch in the previous law, as discrimination laws tend to have no qualifying service.

The Government confirmed that the provisions in the Act simplifying the procedures and costs of deciding tribunal cases will come into force on 25 June 2013.  These changes and fees have been previously reported on and will hopefully help reduce the number of tribunal claims submitted.

There are a number of other changes under the act will come into force in October 2013 or April 2014. These are likely to include:

  • shareholders being given binding votes on pay policy;
  • repeal of a section of the Equality Act 2010, which makes an employer liable where an individual is harassed by a third party;
  • repeal of the questionnaire procedure under the Equality Act 2010, whereby an individual can apply to obtain information about discrimination from the employer and use this as evidence in tribunal proceedings;
  • the addition of “caste” to the definition of “race” under the Equality Act 2010;
  • that power will be given to tribunals to impose financial penalties against employers where they have been found to have breached employment rights;
  • that details of a proposed employment tribunal claim be given to Acas by potential claimants before commencing proceedings, and that Acas will offer the parties the opportunity to engage in conciliation with a conciliation officer; and
  • that tribunals hearing an unfair dismissal claim will be unable to take into account discussions between an employer and an employee or an offer made prior to the termination of employment with the aim of ending the contract on agreed terms.

Finally also as previously reported on compromise agreements will be renamed “settlement agreements” to encourage parties to settle employment disputes. A statutory code of practice will also be introduced by ACAS which will set out the principles for using such settlement agreements, which will include model letters, a model agreement and supporting guidance.   This will hopefully assist in reducing the risk element currently there when an employer wishes to make an approach to an employee they feel they would wish to part company with.