Employment law is in the news again. You can view report via the Guardian of the latest proposals here
We of course must wait to see the detail of any legislation that is put forward. It may be that primary legislation is not required and that some of the alterations will be brought in through secondary legislation.
A number of points arise.
The first is that I reject any link between the unfair dismissal cap and the willingness of employers to recruit new staff. I also don’t consider there to be a perception issue. If the unfair dismissal cap itself was preventing a firm from taking on new staff, that (unlikely) view needs to be challenged.
Secondly, it is hard to not take the view that the concept of no fault dismissals has been trailed heavily in order to soften us up for these proposals. I.e. trail an awful idea in order to prepare people for and achieve a slightly less awful idea.
Thirdly, there is the proposal that the method of settlement may alter. We really do need to see the specifics on this, but I suspect that it will repeal the statutory requirement for any compromise agreement to be signed off by a lawyer or other prescribed person. The problem with this is that it is a blanket removal of a protection. It is possible to imagine how in some cases (particularly discrimination or unfair dismissal) the employee is placed under undue pressure. In addition, I suspect that if an employer is seeking to include or confirm restrictive covenants in any settlements, it will be sensible for the employer to have those agreements signed off by a solicitor or barrister on behalf of the employee so as to reinforce the suggestion of their validity. NB 15.9.12 The government consultation has now been published. It suggests that this protection will not be removed. Rather the ‘reform’ is to rename compromise agreements as settlement agreements, together with some amendments to the law on without prejudice discussions.
Finally, there is a point inherent to the debate about employment law that has occured over the last two years. Namely that employment law and employment lawyers are a negative force in society. It is depressing. I act for employers and employees. I simply don’t buy it and nor should you.