Guest Blogpost from Richard Lynch: Employment rights’ roundup

Unfair dismissal – Employees currently have to be with an employer for one year before they can make a claim for unfair dismissal to an employment tribunal, but this qualifying period is increasing to two years with effect from 6 April 2012. However it is important to note that there are transitional arrangements which mean that anybody whose period of continuous employment began before the above date will still be able to make a claim after one year’s service. Employees who begin work on or after 6 April 2012 will have to work for two years before they can submit a claim.

Employment law consultations are taking place on a number of proposed legislative changes at present, including on further changes to unfair dismissal legislation, redundancy consultation periods and TUPE. George Osborne, Minister for Misery, has been urging employers to support proposals which will allow small businesses to get rid of staff under a compensated no-fault dismissal law, without the risk of being taken to an employment tribunal. If enacted, this will allow unscrupulous employers to fire staff almost at will and will significantly reduce the rights of the 13.8 million people who work in Britain’s 4.5 million small businesses. There are also consultations under way on reducing the 90-day consultation period which applies when it is proposed to make 100 or more employees redundant. And there are proposals to reduce transfer of engagement rights by making it easier for employers to cut pay and conditions after a TUPE transfer has taken place. The TUC fears that this proposal, if enacted, will lead to even more outsourcing and will erode the terms and conditions of already low-paid service sector staff, including in cleaning and catering.

Accident reporting is to be made easier for employers from 6 April 2012 when changes are made to RIDDOR (the Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations). Incidents currently have to be reported to the Health & Safety Executive when a worker is unfit for normal work for over three days following an accident. That period is now being increased to over seven days, which safety’ campaigners fear is sending the wrong message to employers about the importance of the incidents/injuries in question.

Criminal records – Changes are being proposed to the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act which will mean that fewer ex-offenders will have to report spent convictions to employers when applying for work. The new proposals mean that community service orders will be considered spent after one year (rather than four at present). Custody sentences of up to six months will be considered spent two and a half years after leaving prison (rather than seven), custody sentences of six months to two and a half years will be spent six and a half years after leaving (rather than 10) and sentences of between two and a half and four years will be spent after 11 years (rather than never, as applies now).  Custody sentences of over four years will still always have to be declared, as will convictions for people who want to work with children.

Bullies beware – A scientist has won an employment tribunal award of almost £30,000, for constructive and unfair dismissal, after he faced a ‘barrage of shouting’ and unpleasant and derogatory treatment from a professor in Manchester University. This is yet another reminder to those in authority that they must treat people at work with dignity and respect.

Richard Lynch is a Dudden Hill resident. He is a retired Unite the Union official and currently conducts voluntary work on employment rights for the Brent Community Law Centre. He also acts as an accompanying representative for the GMB union.

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