Out-Law / Your Daily Need-To-Know

Rogue employers could face unlimited fines and agency workers will enjoy stronger protection under a new Employment Bill published by the Government on Friday. The reforms also abolish the current statutory disciplinary procedures.

The new Bill repeals existing statutory dispute resolution procedures and related provisions about procedural unfairness in dismissal cases. It follows the recommendations of Michael Gibbons, who began a Government-commissioned review of employment dispute resolution last December. The Gibbons Review was published in June.

Gibbons made recommendations for resolving disputes at an earlier stage and improving the way employment tribunals work. Conciliation service Acas will be revising its statutory Code on discipline and grievance procedures as a consequence. The Bill provides that tribunals will be able to adjust awards where parties have unreasonably failed to follow the Code.

The Bill also introduces tough new penalties for businesses not paying workers the minimum wage and agencies which try to exploit workers and undercut legitimate businesses. Currently, the maximum penalty is a £5,000 fine. That will become an unlimited fine.

The Employment Agency Standards Inspectorate will have more powers to investigate under the new rules. It will be able to access financial information to check whether a worker's complaint is an isolated instance or an example of widespread abuse.

Employment Relations Minister Pat McFadden said: "Our proposed changes to dispute resolution, responding to the Gibbons Review, would ease burdens for businesses and employees by abolishing rigid, statutory processes for dispute resolution, while also ensuring there is no discrimination in employees' rights."

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