Following a period of consultation in 2019, the Law Commission has made a series of proposals to improve how employment disputes are decided. The proposals include significant changes to time limits and the powers of employment tribunals in relation to breach of contract claims.
At present, the time limits vary depending on the type of claim being brought. Some of the most common heads of claim such as unfair dismissal, discrimination and unlawful deduction of wages claims, have a time limit of 3 months whilst other claims, such as claims for statutory redundancy payments, have a time limit of 6 months.
The Law Commission proposes that the time limit be increased to 6 months for all types of claims. They have also proposed amendments to the discretion to extend time limits, so it would be exercised on a “just and equitable” basis for all types of claim. This would provide employment tribunals with a wider discretion to extend time than they currently have. For example, in respect of unfair dismissal claims submitted outside of the time limit, where the narrower “reasonably practicable” test is applied.
The proposed changes would also increase the powers of employment tribunal so that they can decide breach of contract claims brought by employees and workers whilst they are still employed and with a new upper limit for damages of £100,000. At present, these claims can only be made once the employment contract has been terminated and damages are limited to £25,000 (which can force Claimants to pursue claims in two different courts).
The Law Commission also recommends allowing tribunals to hear complaints by employees regarding working hours in excess of the maximum working time limits. It also proposes improvements to the procedures for enforcing employment tribunals’ awards to ensure employees receive the compensation in a timely fashion and allowing Employment judges with experience of hearing discrimination claims to be deployed to sit in the county court to hear discrimination cases outside the employment field.
Speaking about these proposals, the Law Commissioner, Nicholas Paines QC, said:
“Employment tribunals play an important role in resolving disputes and protecting the rights of workers, however the system is not working as well as it should…The reforms that we have recommended will bring real benefits for the courts and tribunals system and its users. The adjustments will improve employment tribunals’ ability to resolve employment disputes as effectively and justly as possible in one place.”
If you are an employer and require advice or support on the matters referred to in this article, or any other HR / Employment Law issue that you may be facing, please do not hesitate to contact us.