Unfair dismissal

The qualifying period for unfair dismissal (and for eligibility for the right to written reasons for dismissal) is to increase from one to two years for employees whose period of continuous employment starts on or after 6 April 2012.

Those starting new jobs on or after this date will have to accrue two years' service to be eligible, unless they have prior continuous service, for example, because they have been transferred under TUPE or the new job is with an associated employer.

Tribunal rules

The following changes are due to take effect from 6 April 2012:

  • The maximum deposit order a tribunal can make if a party wishes to proceed with a weak case will increase from £500 to £1,000.
  • The maximum costs that can be awarded by a tribunal without detailed assessment will increase from £10,000 to £20,000.
  • Witness statements will be taken as read unless the tribunal judge directs otherwise.
  • Witness expenses will no longer be state-funded. The tribunal will have power to direct parties to pay witness costs and order the losing party to reimburse the successful party for these costs.
  • Unfair dismissal cases are to be heard by judge alone unless the judge directs that lay members should also sit.

Statutory benefits

The flat rate of statutory maternity pay, statutory paternity pay and statutory adoption pay increased on 1 April 2012 from £128.73 to £135.45. Maternity allowance will increase on 9 April 2012 from £128.73 to £135.45.

Statutory sick pay will increase on 6 April 2012 from £81.60 to £85.85.

The weekly earnings threshold rises from £102 to £107.

Apprenticeships

From 6 April 2012 employers can use an apprenticeship agreement under the Apprenticeships, Skills, Children and Learning Act 2009 (which is a contract of service rather than a common law contract of apprenticeship) provided that the agreement includes the information prescribed by the Apprenticeships (Form of Apprenticeship Agreement) Regulations 2012. These require the agreement to contain the basic terms of employment required to be given to employees under section 1 of the Employment Rights Act 1996 and to include a statement of the skill, trade or occupation for which the apprentice is being trained under the relevant apprenticeship framework.

Coming up in October

The Government has confirmed the changes to the national minimum wage due to come into force from 1 October 2012. The hourly rate for workers aged 21 and over will increase to £6.19, the hourly rate for workers aged 18-20 and workers aged 16 and 17 will remain £4.98 and £3.68 respectively, and the rate for apprentices will increase to £2.65. The accommodation offset will rise to £4.82 a day.