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The Coalition Government claims that its proposals to the employment tribunal system are necessary to give businesses that want to grow the confidence to hire more staff.
But employment lawyers have warned that the reforms will have the greatest impact on the poor and impede access to justice.
Under the new measures the qualifying period for employees to be able to bring a claim for unfair dismissal will increase from one to two years while a tribunal fee will be introduced for claimants.
Russell Jones & Walker partner Clive Howard said any reform proposals would do little to help a resource stricken service.
He claimed: “The existing system, albeit creaking with the strain of a lack of personnel, works well. What’s needed is additional resource to make sure that the existing system is given every chance to work at its best.
“The introduction of a tribunal fee to be imposed on the claimant will raise an additional barrier to perfectly bone fide claims and will disproportionately affect the less well off.”
Thomas Eggar partner Esther Smith added: “The increase in the qualification period for claiming unfair dismissal, from one year to two, is most unlikely to make any positive impact.
“Those people with between one and two years’ service will still issue proceedings for other claims, such as discrimination or will try to argue that their dismissal falls within one of the categories for which no qualifying period of service is needed.”
The government consultation includes plans to increase disclosure obligations on the claimant and withdraw expenses payments in an effort to encourage settlement. Employers, meanwhile, will face heftier penalties if they are found to be in breach of employees’ rights.
Plans for compulsory mediation for all parties have also been mooted. Such proposals echo the short-lived Statutory Disciplinary Dismissal and Grievance Procedures, which were scrapped in April 2009, Howard claims.
“The outcome of these procedures was extra layers of burden, hours, costs and disputes and no reduction in claims in the tribunals,” he said.