Will Proposed Regulation Changes Help Business? Its Promise to Reduce Regulation? What Can Employers and Their Staff Expect in 2012? Mike Hibbs, Chairman of Birmingham Law Society's Employment Law Committee, and Fellow Committee Member Alan Jones, Provide an Outlook

Article excerpt

Byline: Alan Jones

its promise to reduce regulation? What can employers and their staff expect in 2012? Mike Hibbs, chairman of Birmingham Law Society's employment law committee, and fellow committee member Alan Jones, provide an outlook he Government has promised to reduce regulation to improve TTTbusiness profitability, so will the scope and extent of changes (either introduced by Parliament or by the courts) bear this out? For example, a recently leaked report suggested it should be made easier to sack people, but we all know of the plans to extend the qualifying period for an unfair dismissal claim to two years.

So will these and other changes make it easier for businesses to grow, what else is in prospect, and how will it help employers or employees? Among the numerous issues under consideration are questions about whether or not employees can insist upon a lawyer being present at internal disciplinary and grievance proceedings.

Understandably, employers are often reluctant to allow external people into such meetings, especially when the legislation already admits fellow employees and trade union officials. The question is whether or not this approach can be sustained when the consequences of the internal process are serious or reputational.

Currently the Supreme Court says that lawyers should not be allowed in, but will that be challenged? Discrimination has been an area in which the tribunals have been particularly active. For some, areas of discrimination legislation and case law is well understood, but with new areas such as religion or belief there have only recently been a significant number of cases considering whether or not particular beliefs are covered by the legislation. More crea-a tive arguments suggest this might include an employee's belief in the value of climate change or a belief connected to European finance.

Age discrimination is an increasing issue with more cases being brought before the tribunals all the time. This is hardly surprising now that it is no longer possible to retire employees compulsorily when they get to 65. Many employ-y ees in the current economic climate will wish to carry on working longer than they had originally planned and on the other hand, many employers will want to plan accurately for succession. How does that equate to concerns about the deteriorating performance of an aging workforce? This is an issue for those advising both employees and employers on how to make sure that retirement processes are dealt with fairly with respect for those who may have worked for their employers for very lengthy periods of time.

Another perennial employment issue is about people who go on long-term sick leave and how an employer should deal with that situation.

It is difficult for employers when an employee does not keep his or her employer informed of changes of address. The recent case of Zulhayir v J J Food Services considered whether or not in those circumstances an employee has effectively dismissed themselves because they have not been in touch. …