Employment Law in the UK 2017 – what’s really happening?

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 as Brexit will fill the timetable and as such any major changes to employment law seem unlikely.

One thing that is certain is that the UK Supreme Court ruled that charges to bring a claim to employment tribunal are unlawful. This decision is going to have a big impact on business and at a time of great uncertainty 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 ones. Whilst this was reasonable ambition, the reality is that this type of policy won’t change the claim culture that we live in, it just moves goalposts as employees are forced to try different tactics to bring claims against their employer.  

The past four years has seen employees try a range of new approaches, breach of contract claims have become more common, personal injury for the ubiquitous “stress at work” has increased enormously (are stress at work claims the new “Whiplash?”) and the Equality Act provides many people with an opportunity to claim some form of discrimination, which may not actually exist.

At a time of uncertainty business owners need to be aware that they can become an easy target.

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, businesses need to be aware that employment law is a playground and you will often be seen as an easy target by less scrupulous employees.

Whatever happens with Brexit, don’t be fooled into thinking that it’s suddenly going to get easier as an employer. Nothing is going to change for the foreseeable future and the introduction of charging simply has created different approaches for employees to take.

It is very easy to make expensive mistakes that you can avoid. Always seek expert advice to guide you in this dynamic and challenging area.

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