A Blessing or a Curse? The Removal of Statutory Questionnaires

As April approaches, it brings with it a number of changes to the Equality Act 2010, including the abolition of Statutory Questionnaires in discriminatory cases.  The Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act provides that with effect from the 6th April 2014, the formal mechanism for asking questions and providing answers to those who think they have been unlawfully discriminated against, will be removed.

The questionnaire procedure was designed to discourage unmeritorious claims, and prompt early settlement in those cases which could otherwise progress to litigation.  Under the current procedure, if the ‘alleged discriminator’ does not provide a response to the questions within 8 weeks, or if their response is evasive, an Employment Tribunal can take this into account when deciding whether or not the alleged discrimination took place.

Whilst the completion of such questionnaires undoubtedly placed an onerous and often time consuming burden on Employers, it is uncertain if the removal of this process will actually be of any benefit to them.

In the absence of a formal questionnaire procedure, employees/applicants/service users will still be able to ask questions about situations in which they think they have been discriminated.  Whilst ACAS guidance suggests that the questioner sets a deadline for a response, there will exist no formal timetable for this process. This lack of certainty carries the risk that informal questions could be asked over a series of time, making it harder for the Employer to respond, than if all questions had been asked at once.

Employers should not underestimate the importance of responding to the new style ‘informal question’. If the respondent fails to provide an answer or is evasive in their response, the Tribunal will be take this into account in deciding if there has been any discrimination. In reality therefore, the new measures will do little to assist Employers.

For assistance with dealing with any employment related matter for your business, please contact the Employment Solicitors at Forbes Solicitors on freephone 0800 037 4628.

 

Jonathan Holden

About Jonathan Holden

Jonathan is a Partner and Head of the Employment Law department at Forbes Solicitors. Jonathan’s blogs cover his specialisms of disciplinary and grievance matters, redundancies, restructures, employment contracts, TUPE, policies and procedures and settlement agreements. Jonathan also writes about and acts for clients in relation to Employment Tribunal claims for unfair dismissal and discrimination.

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