The Government has finally published the Beecroft report which was compiled and submitted to the Government last year on proposals for employment law reform, having decided that it is in the public interest to allow people to have access to its content. The report was submitted to the Government in October 2011 but has not been officially published until now. It proposes reform to a vast number of areas of employment law, including unfair dismissal, discrimination law, employment tribunal process and awards, pensions, the criminal record checking system, work permit checks, TUPE, collective redundancies and equal pay audits.
According to the Government, the vast majority of proposals in the Beecroft report reflect ongoing work by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills. For example, it has recently issued a call for evidence on compensated no-fault dismissal for small businesses with less than 10 employees and employment tribunals are to be simplified with further measures in the planned Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill. Across Government, measures have also been announced for CRB checks and pensions auto-enrolment to help ease the burden on business. These measures have all apparently happened independently from the Beecroft report’s recommendations and were part of the Government’s existing programme of reform and agenda for growth.
The Government has listed the following employment law recommendations in the Beecroft report as matters it is currently taking further or considering:
- Unfair dismissal – qualifying period already extended from one to two years from April 2012.
- Third party harassment provision in the Equality Act 2010 – consultation launched last week on the repeal of this provision.
- Monitor the impact of the removal of the default retirement age (DRA) – the Government is committed to reviewing the impact of the removal of the DRA in 2016.
- Implement the employment tribunals Resolving Workplace Disputes reforms – a number of changes have already been implemented to streamline employment tribunals from April 2012.
- Look at streamlining the employment tribunal rules – this is being taken forward as part of the Fundamental Review of the Rules of Procedure by Mr Justice Underhill and the Government will consult on any proposed changes in the autumn.
- Introduce fees to employment tribunals – the Ministry of Justice has consulted on proposals to introduce fees and a Government Response will be issued in due course.
- Criminal Records Bureau checks should address the issue of portability – these will be available through an online checking service from 2013.
- Work permit checks – the UK Border Agency plans to launch a new commercial service to ensure employers and public service providers are able to make quick and easy real- time checks on the validity of the permit.
- Make it easier to bring workers from abroad by improving the online application process for employers and remove requirement to advertise roles in JobCentre Plus (JCP) – this is not being taken forward but jobs paying more than £70K are no longer required to be advertised in JCP and there are changes to make it easier to recruit jobs requiring PhDs regardless of whether they are a resident worker.
- Compensated no-fault dismissal (CNFD) – a call for evidence on CNFD for small businesses has been issued which will close on 8 June 2012.
- Remove gold-plating in TUPE – a call for evidence was issued on the TUPE rules which closed on 31 January 2012 and the Government is considering the responses. If there is a call for change, the Government would consult on any proposals.
- Reduce the consultation period for collective redundancies to 30 days – a call for evidence was issued on the consultation rules which closed on 31 January 2012. The Government will be consulting on proposals shortly.
- Permanent exemption from pensions auto-enrolment for micro-businesses with less than five employees – this is not being taken forward but the Government has delayed the implementation of pensions auto-enrolment for small employers until the next Parliament.
Matters which are not being taken forward include exempting micro-businesses from various employment laws and introducing a cap on awards in discrimination cases. The latter would be illegal under EU rules so is not achievable.