The Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill, which makes a number of changes to employment law, received its first reading in the Commons last week.

The Bill covers changes to dispute resolution, reform of Employment Tribunals, unfair dismissal awards, financial “penalties” on employers, whistleblowing and compromise agreements.

Most of the changes have been well rehearsed (having been preceded by consultations), but the provision to reduce the maximum of the current loss of earnings award by at least 65 per cent was a bolt from the blue.

The main provisions include:

  • the introduction of mandatory ACAS conciliation before the claimant can start Tribunal proceedings, except when there is more than one claimant in the same matter and another one has already complied with this requirement or the respondent has contacted ACAS
  • the introduction of “legal officers” to the Tribunal process who can decide issues such as jurisdiction and make decisions that would otherwise be taken by the judge, if all the parties agree in writing
  • amending the composition of Employment Appeal Tribunal proceedings so that they can be heard by a judge alone
  • giving power to the secretary of state to increase or decrease the limit of the compensatory award by a set amount or a certain number of weeks’ pay, or the lower of the two. This provision also allows for different awards to be specified in relation to different types of employers
  • giving Tribunals the power to impose a financial penalty on employers if they decide that the employer breached the worker’s rights and that the breach has one or more aggravating features (not defined)
  • restricting the definition of “qualifying disclosure” in whistleblowing legislation to “in the public interest” (not defined)
  • renaming compromise agreements as settlement agreements

 

Thompsons has produced a more detailed briefing document for unions

Go to the parliamentary publications website to read the wording of the Enterprise Bill (pdf 825KB)