Posted On / 08.04.2014

Bosses Warned Over Employment Law Shake-up

Bosses warned over employment law shake-up

A Somerset legal firm is urging employers to ensure they are up to speed with a shake-up of workplace laws that have come into force from this month.

Battens Solicitors is highlighting changes to the employment tribunal process and the introduction of penalties of up to £5,000 for bosses who lose unfair dismissal claims.

Dawn Gallie, Head of Employment at Yeovil-headquartered Battens Solicitors, said the new employers’ penalty is in addition to legal costs and any compensation award payable to the successful claimant.

She said: “This could be hugely detrimental, especially to smaller businesses, and may result in the settlement of claims just to avoid this risk.”

Under a separate procedural step, employees are now mandated to involve ACAS, the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service, before they submit a claim to the employment tribunal for unfair dismissal or discrimination.

An ACAS conciliation officer will then liaise between the employee and the employer to see if a resolution can be achieved and a tribunal claim avoided.

Ms Gallie, a member of the Employment Lawyers Association, said: “This will give employers advance notice of impending claims and the opportunity to resolve matters more cost efficiently. In the event a resolution cannot be reached, ACAS will issue a certificate and the employee will then be free to submit a claim in the normal way. Of course, the best advice is to try and avoid claims altogether and ensure you follow proper processes.”

Both the ACAS requirement and the employer penalties follow the introduction last year of up-front tribunal fees for claimants. These have led to a substantial drop in claims. So far, a legal challenge by the trade union Unison has failed although they have applied to appeal. The government has also said the situation is under ongoing review.

Ms Gallie added: “The reduction in claims since last year is good news for employers, especially those who have faced nuisance claims, but the introduction of employer penalties will keep companies on their toes. It is a case of the government giving with one hand and taking away with the other.”

Battens is a Legal 500 firm with offices in Yeovil, Dorchester, Weymouth and Sherborne.

As well as legal advice and representation, the firm has a dedicated service, BattensHR, providing fixed-fee HR and employment advice together with a staff handbook and an unlimited telephone advice line for all day-to-day enquiries.

For advice on all employment and HR matters and for updates on employment law changes contact Dawn Gallie at Battens Solicitors on 01935 846131 or dawn.gallie@battens.co.uk.