Employers face a mountain of "burdensome" employment law changes this year, which risks hampering growth and recruitment plans and undermine the coalition's drive to cut red tape, a report warns.
The array of rule changes scheduled for 2013 span from flexible working and a new system of parental leave to ongoing pensions changes and the unpopular concept of employee shareholder status, an analysis by Pinsent Masons reveals.
Stuart Neilson, employment partner at the law firm, said employers are facing a storm of complex new rules and regulations that threaten to thwart expansion or hiring plans.
"The substantial change this year will distract from what businesses are trying to do. People like certainty; the changes coming up are unsettling and there's a risk that could affect recruitment or growth," Mr Neilson said.
One of the most significant new rules will be changes to the parental leave system in March, where workers will be entitled to take a total of 18 weeks 4.5 months unpaid parental leave, up from 13 weeks.
In April the Government will also set out a new system of shared parental leave and rights giving all workers the right to demand flexible working.
Under the changes, in the most complex cases such as unfair dismissal and discrimination, workers will have to pay £1,200 upfront to see their claim lodged in court and proceed to a hearing.
The new rules are intended to reduce the number of vexatious claims in the system, which is good news for employers, but some companies warn the fees are "too high" and would get in the way of justice, the Pinsent Masons report warns.
Plans to introduce early conciliation next year, where industry body Acas intervenes to try to prevent tribunal cases ending up at court, are also "unnecessary", Mr Neilson said, as workers intent on getting their day in court will pursue that path.
Under other changes, April (Paris: FR0004037125 - news) will see the Government introduce the concept of employee shareholder status, where workers will be able to swap certain employment rights for shares. But critics argue the scheme would damage people's trust in business by weakening staff rights, while business concerns include the potential for arguments about valuation, the proportion of shares allotted and what happens if there is no "exit" event to give shares cash value.