The Employment Bill was formally introduced to the Northern Ireland Assembly on 7 December 2015.
The main purpose of the Employment Bill as outlined by the Department of Employment and Learning is to make provision for early resolution of workplace disputes and create a neutral assessment service. The Bill also introduces significant reform to the law around public interest disclosures. Finally, the Bill permits the Department to deal with the provision of careers guidance and apprenticeships through regulations. The Bill’s provisions will:
- provide that, in most cases, a prospective claimant must first have submitted the details of their claim to the Labour Relations Agency before they can lodge the claim at an industrial tribunal or the Fair Employment Tribunal;
- extend confidentiality provisions to ensure that the full range of LRA dispute resolution services is appropriately protected;
- contain enabling provisions that allow for a neutral assessment service to be operated by the LRA;
- convert the Department’s power to amend the qualifying period, for the right to claim unfair dismissal, from confirmatory to draft affirmative procedure;provide for more accurate rounding when annual changes, in line with inflation, are applied to the maximum amount of an unfair dismissal award and other employment rights related payments; and empowers the Department to modify these sums if a draft order is approved by the Assembly;
- alter the effect of the good faith test; the issue of good faith will now be considered by a tribunal in relation to remedy, rather than liability;
- introduce a test to close the loophole in public interest disclosure legislation;
- introduce a power to allow the Department to make regulations requiring regulators and other bodies prescribed for the purposes of Article 67F of ERO 1996 (as recipients of whistleblowing disclosures) to report annually on disclosures of information made by workers;
- include public interest disclosure protections for student nurses and student midwives;
- introduce a power to amend, by subordinate legislation, the definition of worker in public interest disclosure legislation;
- legislate for employers to be vicariously liable if an employee who makes a protected disclosure subsequently experiences detriment from colleagues;
- amend enabling powers to allow for procedural changes to be made to regulations concerning ITs and the FET;
- permit the Department to deal with the provision of careers guidance by way of regulations;
- empower the Department, by regulations, to deal with the provision of apprenticeships.
Your organisation is invited to provide a written submission to the Committee for Employment and Learning by e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or by post to the Committee Clerk, Room 375, Parliament Buildings, Ballymiscaw, Stormont, Belfast, BT4 3XX.
Full guidance on how the written submission should be structured is attached however you should be particularly mindful of the following:
- The submission should be made available in electronic form and in a Word Document format.
- Submissions should respond to each of the clauses in turn and clearly specify which of the clauses they are responding to. You do not need to respond on all the clauses if they are not pertinent to the points that you wish to make.
- Background information should be kept to a minimum - a maximum of one page for information on your organisation or your experience of this field.
The closing date for written submissions is 21 December 2015.
If you require any further information please contact the Committee Clerk, Cathie White, on 028 9052 1448.
Further information on the Committee's scrutiny of the Bill can be found below: