Employment Committee Report

Charlie Rae

Committee Chair

The Employment Law Committee continued to meet monthly during 2021 and into 2022, to consider various changes and proposed changes to employment laws, developments in employment law practice and to liaise with interested organisations.

Our meetings have been well attended, though I am sure, like many of the Society’s committees, these have been conducted mainly via Teams. Whilst recently we are pleased to have been able to reintroduce meetings in person, a development that members of the Committee very much look forward to continuing, I am sure that using Teams will be a continued feature of our work for the foreseeable future.

We enjoyed a stable year in terms of our Committee membership. We welcomed Christina Hutchison from Fieldfisher LLP and said farewell to Samantha Burns, formerly of Aston University, who took up an appointment as an Employment Judge.

2021/22 has been a relatively quiet year in terms of government consultations on employment law matters for our Committee to consider. However, it cannot be said that it has been a quiet year for practitioners, who have generally found it to be a very busy time. We have found much to report, and debate, regards the operations (and often frustrations!) of the Employment Tribunal system.

We reported last year that we had considered and responded to four separate and in-depth government consultations, which we spent many hours discussing and then preparing, refining and submitting into responses, all of which were detailed and lengthy. This year the Committee considered two new consultation papers, which although fewer compared to previous years, nevertheless provided the opportunity for the Committee to provide some insightful input that hopefully will support the development of some key areas of proposed new legislation. In particular, a consultation about whether employers should make flexible working a default position for its employees generated a great deal of debate and presentation of views and ideas. Additionally, the development of new rules around disability workforce reporting was an interesting and progressive subject.  Both papers that we considered and responded to in detail, gave rise to very interesting discussions and submissions. The Committee is pleased that it has been able to add some real value and insight towards the potential development of new employment laws during these past few years.

We also welcomed as guests, Regional Employment Judge Findlay and Dave Levene (ACAS Area Director, Individual Dispute Resolution, Wales and West Midlands), plus others with an involvement in employment law practice. Equally, the Committee was delighted to hear from Inez Brown in the closing months of her Presidency, as a guest at one of its meetings last year. It was a well-attended meeting enabling our members to understand better the role that our Committee can (and does) play in the work of the Society more broadly. All guests have provided us with informative insights and updates in their respective areas, and I am pleased to take this opportunity to publicly thank them for taking the time out of their busy schedules to meet with us. They all provided us with some really valuable insights.

We have continued to consider how we can deliver events for the benefit of our members.  In summer last year, we organised and hosted a Teams panel discussion about employers adjusting to Covid, which we co-hosted with the Employment Lawyers’ Association (ELA).  We were delighted that it was a very well attended event with almost 100 attendees joining. Those who attended the event reported that it was a success. Jog Hundle and Kam Bains from our Committee were Chair and panellist respectively, which provided excellent profile for the BLS.  We plan to host a further joint event with ELA in the coming months, on the hot topic matter of industrial relations.  We also plan to host a separate Employment Judges question and answer panel event in November or December, re-running an event, which in the past has proven to be a great success and is always very popular with BLS members.

Our meetings have been productive, enjoyable and well attended throughout the past year.  I would like to thank our members for their continued enthusiasm, positivity and hard work, all of which is much appreciated by me in my role as Chair, and which helps to make the role that much easier.