With the government having announced a radical reform of employment legislation, we consider what lies ahead for dental practices this spring.
The consultation on charging fees in employment tribunals and the Employment Appeal Tribunal ended in early March, with two proposals under consideration.
The first of these would see an initial fee (£150-£250) followed by further charges (£250-£1,250) should the claim proceed to hearing. Alternatively, individuals could make just one payment of between £200 and £600, but have their compensation limited to £30,000. For any awards above this threshold, a higher initial amount of £1,750 would be charged.
Under the terms of the consultation, the first of these options would also apply to appeals to the Employment Appeal Tribunal. In such cases, the initial fee would be £400 and the hearing fee would be £1,200.
The fees would be introduced in 2013 for the first option, while, in the latter case, this would not happen until 2014.
In April, the annual increases in statutory payments took place, with statutory sick pay increasing to £85.85 a week. Furthermore, the rate of maternity, paternity and adoption pay rose to £135.45.
Other changes that took place in April include extending the qualifying period for unfair dismissal from 12 months to two years and simplification of the Employment Tribunal system.
As a result, deposit orders increased to £1,000, while cost awards doubled to £20,000. In addition, witness statements are taken as read unless the judge directs otherwise and witness expenses have been removed. Finally, judges now sit alone in cases of unfair dismissal.
The government has also called for evidence on a proposal that would enable micro businesses to make compensated no-fault dismissals.
Furthermore, other changes, such as the introduction of protected conversations and long-term reform of the mediation process, are expected later in the year, making this a significant year for both dental practices and their staff.