Looking forward, what changes will we see in employment law in 2014?
31st January 2014
This is the date when changes to TUPE 2006 came into force. TUPE remains a complex area of employment law, and the changes have been well summarised on the website of employment lawyers Ironmonger Curtis – see end of article
6th April 2014
The introduction of ACAS early conciliation
This will require Claimants in the employment tribunal to submit details of their complaint to ACAS before bringing a claim. ACAS will offer a period of early conciliation, which (if accepted), will take place for a period of one month before the claim is raised, and will have the effect of extending the time limit for bringing the claim for a period of one month. If early conciliation is unsuccessful or is refused, the Claimant will be able to go ahead and raise their claim in the tribunal.
If, as is the aim, a significant proportion of complaints are resolved pre-claim, the knock-on effect could be a welcome reduction in pressure on the Tribunals Service.
For further information about ACAS and early conciliation, take a look at www.acas.org.uk.
Discrimination questionnaires to be abolished
The use of discrimination questionnaires (through which Claimants can ask questions of employers, usually relating to their approach discrimination in the workplace), will end as of 6th April 2014, and coincide with the introduction of early conciliation (above).
Financial penalties for losing employers to be imposed by tribunals
With this new power, employment tribunals will be able to impose financial penalties on employers who lose at tribunal. The penalty will be applied at the discretion of the tribunal, rather than automatically. Where a Claimant is awarded damages, the penalty (if awarded) which will be 50% of the amount of compensation awarded to the successful Claimant (subject to a minimum of £100 and a maximum of £5,000). If the penalty is paid within 21 days, it will be reduced by 50%.
Where the Claimant succeeds but does not receive a monetary award, the tribunal will be able to apply a monetary value for the purposes of deciding the penalty.
The introduction of this power is likely to be welcomed by Claimants, and may be considered to ‘balance out’ the introduction of issue and hearing fees back in summer 2013.
Statutory sick pay record-keeping to be abolished
This will allow employers the discretion to use a record-keeping system that is flexible and suits their business needs, and is likely to be welcomed by many.
Introduction of a new approach to sickness absence management
The government will introduce a health and work assessment and advisory service which will provide the following key services for employers:
- A state-funded assessment by occupational health specialists for employees who have been off work sick for four weeks or more; and
- Case management for employees who have complex needs, to assist their return to work.
There is an increasing expectance on employers to seek medical evidence – at their own expense – when dealing with employees who are absent from work. The new approach should make this process easier and more financially viable for employers, and will be particularly helpful to SMEs.
Later in 2014
Extension to the right to request flexible working
At the moment, only employees with 26 weeks’ service who are parents of children under the age of 18 or carers have the right to request flexible working. The right will be extended this year to all employees with 26’ weeks continuous service, regardless of whether or not they are parents or carers.
The strict step-by-step statutory procedure for dealing with flexible working requests will also be abolished, and will be replaced by an employer obligation to consider requests ‘reasonably’.
This change was intended to take effect from 6th April 2014, but has been postponed to a date later in 2014, which is yet to be confirmed.
There are both positives and negatives to this change. For example, on the one hand increased flexibility may promote greater productivity and loyalty from employees. However, on the other hand employers may not be able to agree to all requests from an operational point of view, which could result in some disgruntled employees.
Blog provided courtesy of employment law firm, Ironmonger Curtis LLP (www.ironmongercurtis.com)