Employment Law in the UK 2017 – What’s really happening out there?

Employment Law

22nd September 2017

In this guest blog, Cream HR‘s Managing Director Anthony Sutton discusses how Brexit will affect employment tribunal claims:

Ever since the Brexit vote writers, speculators and commentators have been filling column inches with their thoughts on what might happen to employment law and regulation after we leave the EU.

Whilst it can be fun to speculate, none of us knows what will happen in this area over the next few years. What we do know is that parliament is going to have very little time to pass any new legislation. Brexit is going to fill the timetable and as such any major changes to employment law seem unlikely.

One thing that is certain is that over the summer the UK Supreme Court ruled that charges to bring a claim to employment tribunal are unlawful. This decision means that charging was abolished immediately and employment tribunal claims are free once more. This is going to have a big impact on business and at a time of great uncertainty because of Brexit, businesses need to be aware that claims presented to Employment Tribunal are likely to rise dramatically.

When the government introduced charging, their intention was to reduce the volume of claims, particularly speculative or spurious ones. Whilst this was reasonable ambition, the reality is that this type of policy won’t change the claim culture that we live in, all it did was move the goalposts as employees were forced to try different tactics to bring claims against their employer.

The past four years has seen employees try a range of new approaches. We’ve noticed a significant increase in breach of contract and personal injury claims (is the ubiquitous “stress at work” claim becoming the new “Whiplash?”) and the Equality Act provides many with an opportunity to claim some form of discrimination, which may not actually exist.

At all times business owners need to be aware that they can become an easy target for potential financial gain and when the economic climate is difficult, the risk is amplified.

The return of free to access Employment Tribunals is not a bad thing and it was wrong of the government to deny access to genuine claimants, often the poorest and most vulnerable in society.

However, you need to be aware that employment law is a playground and that whilst you may have had an easier few years because of the dramatic fall in tribunal claims, it is highly unlikely that is going to continue and the next few years could present some very real challenges in this complicated area.

Whatever happens with Brexit, don’t be fooled into thinking that things are going to get easier as an employer. Whilst legislation is unlikely to change much for the foreseeable future the introduction of charging created new battlefronts and the removal of charging is likely to open the floodgates once more!

It is easy to be complacent and to think it won’t happen to you, but it can. Mistakes in this area are easy to make and can be expensive, stressful and distracting. They are avoidable!


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