Well, one thing we can all say is that in the last 6 to 8 weeks things have changed! Well done to you all for grappling with the furlough scheme and managing the competing demands of employees when it comes to childcare, self-shielding, self-isolation and holiday requests. It’s certainly not been an easy time; the enquiries we are dealing with are testing the grey matter to its limit, at our end anyway! We’ll all need a holiday ourselves when Boris lets us back out.
When it comes to the world of HR and employment law though, change is almost inevitable and yesterday the Law Commission published its recommendations for yet more reform, this time to the tribunal process. Some of the more interesting proposals which are likely to impact how we deal with employee issues include:
extending the jurisdiction of the employment tribunal so that workers (in addition to employees) can bring contractual claims and increasing the limit on contractual claims from £25,000 to £100,000. This would mean higher value contract claims could be pursued in the tribunal, avoiding the more complicated and often expensive route via the county court that's currently open to claimants;
extending the time limit to start a claim from 3 months to 6 months. The 3 month limit was set way back when, when tribunals were supposed to be a quick and easy way to resolve basic disputes. Employment law has since evolved and anyone who has had the (dis)pleasure of dealing with a claim will know that they are far from straightforward nowadays. There is increased pressure for this reform as a result of Covid-19, so watch this space;
changing the test for when judges can allow a claimant to bring a claim after the time limit has expired. Currently, a claimant must show that it wasn’t ‘reasonably practicable’ to comply whereas the proposal will, in not so many words, change this to ‘would it be fair’ to allow the claim through; and
asking tribunal judges to lend their expertise to the county courts to deal with non-employment related discrimination claims. Great idea in practice, but delays in the tribunal are often unacceptably high as it is. Please don’t take our judges away! We need claims dealt with efficiently so that they aren’t hanging over us for years.
If you’ve got time on your hands, the full report extends to over 200 pages…. If you’re not at that level of boredom just yet, we’ll keep an eye on the proposals for you and update you in due course.
But for now, keep going! We are starting to see queries about un-furloughing staff, how that process is managed and how to deal with those staff who don’t want to come back to work. An important reminder that in times like these, the risk of health and safety related detriment claims is high so please listen carefully to concerns from staff and make sure you respond appropriately.
If you’re in any doubt, we are here to advise and help. Contact a member of the Employment Law Team.