A number of important employment law changes came into effect last week, including an increase in the qualifying period for unfair dismissal for new starters and costs awards to businesses in so-called vexatious Tribunal claims.
The following reflect the most significant changes that came into force on 6 April:
- The qualifying period for claiming unfair dismissal increased from one to two years for employees starting a new job on or after 6 April. The change is not, however, retrospective so employees who started their job before that date are still subject to the one-year period.
- Judges can now sit alone in unfair dismissal cases (previously they had to sit with lay members), unless they think it is appropriate for the case to be heard by a full panel, for example, where there are significant disputes about the facts.
- Witness statements can now be provided in writing as opposed to the previous rules when a witness read their own statement out aloud.
- The maximum level for costs awarded to businesses winning a vexatious Tribunal claim increased from £10,000 to £20,000.
- Deposit orders required by claimants when a judge determines that a part of claim is unmerited increased from £500 to £1,000.
- The guidance for Tribunal application and response forms now include the average value of awards and the time taken to reach a hearing so that everyone knows “what to expect from the Tribunal process before they enter the system”.
- The Lower Earnings Limits for national insurance contributions increased from £102 to £107 per week.
The rate for statutory maternity, paternity, adoption pay and maternity allowance increased from £128.73 to £135.45 per week; statutory sick pay increased from £81.60 to £85.85 per week on 1 April.