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Retirement And Tribunal Rules Top 'Red Tape' Concerns

Companies Also Complain About Confusing Government Announcements


Employment lawyers at Irwin Mitchell are reporting a significant rise in the number of enquiries from businesses in relation to the impact of the abolishment of the default retirement age and the risk of employment tribunals.

The findings, which arise from calls handled over the last six months by the firm’s fixed fee employment law service, imhr+, also point to a perceived lack of co-ordination on behalf of the Government when it comes to the announcement of new initiatives.

“These findings perhaps aren’t too surprising when you consider the number of employment law reforms that the Government is in the process of implementing,” said employment specialist at Irwin Mitchell in Sheffield, Liesel Whitfield.

“It’s clear however that when combined with the uncertain state of the economy, many businesses are increasingly concerned about how they will be implemented.

“Scrapping the default retirement age last year is a real live issue for ‘UK Plc’.  Previously, companies could retire employees at 60 or 65, but since last October, having a policy of staff leaving due to them reaching a certain age can only be achieved if their aim is legitimate and the age chosen is a proportionate means of achieving that aim.

“Although the Supreme Court is expected to rule on this issue later this year, it is clear that business leaders want some clarity now. Some value the certainty that a set retirement age provides and are concerned that without one, they could face tribunal claims for age discrimination.”

The Government’s plans to reform the tribunal system, including making it more difficult for employees to pursue so-called spurious claims appear to be largely welcomed, but according to Irwin Mitchell, businesses are clearly unsure how these changes will work and what the impact could be. 

Liesel said: “Although CEOs and HR directors generally welcome the introduction of a payment before a tribunal can be heard, there are concerns that it might not be as effective when combined with other reforms.

“The increase to the qualification period for unfair dismissal for some employees from one to two years in April seems like a good idea on paper, but judging from the conversations that we have had with clients, it’s clear that businesses have recognised the increased threat they potentially face for discrimination claims because they do not have a qualifying period.”

In addition to the number of new employment laws, Liesel points to the increased confusion and the perceived lack of co-ordination caused by some Government employment reform initiatives happening at the same time, progressing at different speeds and sometimes overlapping.

“There is a great deal of frustration in relation to how announcements have been made, particularly during the last six months. I think this stems from the fact that various initiatives are sponsored by one or more Government departments.

“Announcements on proposals ahead of it publishing the results of relevant consultation exercises clearly has not helped either. What we are hearing from our clients is that they would like far better co-ordination,” commented Liesel.

Irwin Mitchell’s fixed price employment legal helpline, imhr+, has hundreds of members nationally and provides businesses with their own dedicated solicitors as well as a wealth of information, advice and HR document templates. The service also audits existing policies and contracts and provides insurance backing for any employment tribunal cases.