Monthly Archives: September 2014

New Legislation in Force 1 October 2014

SUMMARY:  Several key employment law changes will be implemented on 1 October 2014:

  1. National minimum wage.  The national minimum wage rates for all workers will increase.  In summary:

1 October 2013 to 30 September 2014

From 1 October 2014

Standard Adult Rate

£6.31

£6.50

Development Rate

£5.03

£5.13

Young Workers Rate

£3.72

£3.79

Apprenticeship Rate

£2.68

£2.73

  1. Power to order equal pay audits.  Tribunals will have the power to order employers found to have been in breach of equal pay law to carry out equal pay audits in certain circumstances.
  1. Reserve Forces reform. The statutory qualifying period for unfair dismissal will be removed where the dismissal is connected with the employee’s membership of the Reserve Forces.   There will also be provision for payments to small and medium-sized employers of reservists who are called up.  See our article posted on Military Reservists and Unfair Dismissal posted on 22 September 2014 for further details.
  1. Time off to accompany partner to antenatal appointments.   Employees and agency workers will have a right to take unpaid time off to accompany a pregnant woman with whom they have a “qualifying relationship” to up to two antenatal appointments, up to a maximum of six and a half hours for each appointment. For more information on this, see our newsletter which is published on 1 October 2014.

Contact Details

For more details about upcoming changes in employment law please contact:

fgmedia@fgsolicitors.co.uk

+44 (0) 1604 871143

This update is for general guidance only and does not constitute definitive advice.

Military Reservists & Unfair Dismissal

Military Reserves DismissalSUMMARY: Military reservists have immediate unfair dismissal rights

Dismissing military reservists

Most employees are required to have 2 years’ continuous service with their employer before they have the right to bring a claim for unfair dismissal; this period of time is known as the statutory qualifying period.

It is already a criminal offence for an employer to dismiss a military reservist because they are called out or likely to be called out. However, until 1 October 2014, reservists have to wait until they have acquired 2 years’ service before they can bring a claim for unfair dismissal. It could take a reservist longer than another employee to accrue 2 years’ service because periods of call-up are not usually counted for continuity of employment purposes.

From 1 October 2014, there will be no statutory qualifying period for unfair dismissal where the dismissal is connected with the employee’s membership of the Reserve Forces (the Territorial Army, Royal Naval Reserve, Royal Marines Reserve or Royal Auxiliary Air Force).

Costs

There is already an award (of up to £110 per day) available to employers in respect of replacement costs incurred as a result of the reservist’s absence. From 1 October 2014, small and medium-sized employers will be entitled to an additional monthly payment of £500 for each full month that a mobilised reservist is absent from work, assuming that they are on a full-time contract and work at least 35 hours a week. This payment is intended to cover the quantifiable extra costs of employing a temporary replacement, including agency fees, advertising and training costs.

Likely effect on employers

It is unlikely that many unfair dismissal claims will be brought by reservists even once the requirement for qualifying service has been removed. This is because a former employer is obliged to re-employ any reservist who was employed by it in the four-week period before mobilisation. The employee must be allowed to return to their job within six months after the end of their military service, and re-employment should be in the same job and on terms and conditions no less favourable than those which would have applied if there had been no call-up. If total reinstatement is not reasonable and practicable, the employee must be offered the most favourable terms and conditions that are reasonable and practicable in the circumstances.

An employee who is not re-employed can start a Reinstatement Committee case. This is similar to an employment tribunal claim, but an advantage to the employee is that there are no fees to start such a case, or have it heard. This is therefore likely to be the first port of call for any reservist who is not taken on by their employer following a period of mobilisation.

Contact Details

For more details about unfair dismissal and employing military reservists please contact:

fgmedia@fgsolicitors.co.uk

+44 (0) 1604 871143

This update is for general guidance only and does not constitute definitive advice.

Labour Campaign to Change the Employment Tribunal System

 

abolish employment tribunalsSUMMARY: Labour promise to abolish current employment tribunal system and reconsider fees

At the TUC Congress 2014 various debates took place to consider and create strategies for how the trade union movement can come together to defend its members.

One area that came under close scrutiny was the issue of workplace justice. Since the reforms to the employment tribunal system including the introduction of fees in July 2013, there has been growing concern from the unions and workplace representatives that workers are being denied access to justice. There is mounting evidence to show that there is a continuing downward trend in employment tribunal claims.

The latest statistic released by the Ministry of Justice this week show a significant decline in the number of employment tribunal claims received. Between the period April and June 2014, 3,792 claims were recorded, which is 70% fewer than in the same period of 2013.

These latest statistics will add weight to the Labour Party’s new campaign for change.  On 8 September 2014, the Shadow Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills, Chuka Umunna MP pledged at the TUC Congress that the Labour Party will undertake major reforms of the employment tribunal system, if elected in 2015.  Starting from the premise that the employment tribunal system has curtailed individuals’ access to justice and is both “unfair” and “unsustainable” it would be  Labour’s intention to “abolish the current system, reform the employment tribunals and put in place a new system”, although no further details were provided.

One commentator has indicated that even under Labour, fees are unlikely to be eradicated but replaced by a system of means testing.

As a law firm we too have witnessed a decline in the number of claims against our employer clients. Early intervention via the ACAS Early Conciliation Scheme introduced earlier this year, which requires anyone seeking to go to the tribunal to try and settle their dispute before they can claim may provide one explanation for the reduction in claims.  Undoubtedly individuals faced with having to pay both an initial fee and hearing fee has also had a significant impact.

The introduction of fees has and will continue to be controversial. Whilst employers welcome the fact that fees discourage vexatious claims and those who wish to play the system, no one wants to see an individual denied the right to seek redress for a genuine grievance.

The fee debate is not going to disappear.  Whilst the government indicated in April 2014 that it would consider lowering fees, no further announcement has been made. The latest statistics and Labour’s recent announcement may be the catalyst for a further review. We will keep you posted of any developments in future briefings.

Contact Details

For more details about how to deal with Early Conciliation and employment tribunal claims please contact:

fgmedia@fgsolicitors.co.uk

+44 (0) 1604 871143

This update is for general guidance only and does not constitute definitive advice. 

Zero-hours Contracts

Zero-hours contractsSUMMARY: Zero-hours contracts – government launches consultation on exclusivity ban.

Exclusivity ban in zero hours contracts

In June this year the government announced a ban on the use of exclusivity clauses in zero-hours contracts, which restrict workers from working for other businesses.

A new section 27A will be inserted into the Employment Rights Act 1996 (via the Small Business, Enterprise and Employment Bill 2014-15) making exclusivity clauses unenforceable where  the zero hours contract prohibits the worker from working for another employer, or from doing so without the employer’s consent.

The Secretary of State will have the power to make further regulations dealing with anti-avoidance issues.

It is not yet known when the Bill will come into force but it is unlikely to be before 6 November 2014.

Consultation on anti-avoidance

The government has recognised the need to regulate against anti-avoidance; a ban might not be sufficient to prevent a minority group of rogue employers attempting to get around the ban on restricting worker activities.

The government therefore wants to close any possible loopholes to protect workers on zero hours contracts, and has therefore launched a consultation for views on how to stop employers potentially sidestepping such a ban.  The aim of the consultation is to seek the views of employers, unions and individuals to help identify the potential loopholes, and to establish what redress workers should have including penalties and remedies should be introduced.  Views will also be invited on whether there are any potentially negative or unintended consequences as a result of the wording of the legislation.

Proposed Codes of practice for zero hours contracts

The government has also proposed that business representatives and the unions work together to develop industry-led/owned sector-specific codes of practice. It is not clear how and when these codes would be developed.  The codes are expected to cover:

  • when zero hours contracts should be used and how to identify them to job applicants and workers;
  • rights and responsibilities of the individual and the employer.  This will include how to calculate accrued benefits such as annual leave; and
  • allocating work and notice of hours of work or cancellation of work.

The closing date for responses to the consultation is 3 November 2014.  The responses are expected to help shape how the Secretary of State will use its powers to make secondary legislation to manage anti-avoidance.

Replying to the consultation 

You can reply to this consultation online at https://bisgovuk.citizenspace.com/lm/banning-exclusivity-clauses-avoidance. The consultation response form is available electronically on the consultation page: https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/zero-hours-employment-contracts-exclusivity-clause-ban-avoidance (until the consultation closes).  Alternatively, we would be happy to submit a response on your behalf and if so, please telephone us to discuss this further.

Contact Details

For more details about these changes please contact:

fgmedia@fgsolicitors.co.uk

+44 (0) 1604 871143

This update is for general guidance only and does not constitute definitive advice.