The Government have today announced major reforms to the Employment Tribunal System.

The changes, announced by Chancellor George Osborne at the Conservative Party conference in Manchester include:

  • An increase in the unfair dismissal qualifying period from one year to two years, understood to be effective from 6th April 2012; and
  • The introduction of an upfront fee to lodge an employment tribunal claim, (which could be in the region of £250) and a further court fee (of around £1000) payable by a Claimant when the hearing is listed. Such fees to be refunded to the Claimant if successful and forfeited if they lose. Precise fees are yet to be decided and are likely to be effective from April 2013.

I am not altogether surprised at the Government’s decision to make reforms to the Employment Tribunal system given that the Employment Tribunals saw over a fifty percent increase in claims last year alone. The changes announced today will undoubtedly reduce the number of claims going through the system, which has come under significant strain over the past twelve months.

The moves to reform employment tribunals announced by the coalition also appear to seek some redress in a system that has been criticised as being weighed too heavily in favour of employees in recent times. In light of the decision, employers will be able to be more flexible as they will have a reduced risk when having to make commercial decisions regarding the termination of employees’ contracts.

From the perspective of employees, the changes will undoubtedly act as a barrier to making a claim. Ultimately, those employees who have a genuine claim against their employer should still pursue their claim, although funding this is likely to become an issue for some employees.

If you require employment advice, including advice regarding employment tribunal proceedings, please don’t hesitate to contact me.