2014: Employment Law Update

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Just as we’ve got used to some significant changes for the Employment Tribunal system as well as other important changes that we’ve kept you abreast of in 2013, what does 2014 hold? Below are a few of the changes that will definitely occur this year and a few others that we’re awaiting confirmation on:

January
TUPE reforms. There are a number of changes on the law on TUPE, the main ones being:

  1. Service provision changes – activities must be “fundamentally or essentially the same” in order for TUPE to apply.
  2. Employer liability information needs to be provided 28 days before the transfer date, rather than 14.
  3. Employers with less than 10 staff are now allowed to inform and consult with their staff directly where there is no appropriate representatives.
  4. As long as any changes are no less favourable to the employee, the new employer can negotiate terms from collective agreements one year after the transfer.
  5. The definition of ETO (economic, technical or organisational reason) will be amended to include a change of location of the workforce – a “fair” reason for redundancy following a transfer – however, a dismissal under TUPE will be unfair.
February
You may already be aware that with the introduction of auto enrollment for pensions being put in size of the company with different staging dates, those with 250 or more employees started on 1 October 2012 ending on 1 February 2014, those with between 50 and 249 employees the staging date starts on 1 April 2014 and ends on 1 April 2015.

April
ACAS will introduce the Mandatory Pre-Claim Conciliation. This means that claimants will need to lodge details of the proposed ET claim with ACAS, who will then offer the parties – for one month only – a conciliation officer to try and resolve the issue prior to Tribunal. If either party refuses conciliation, or the conciliation fails or the period expires, then ACAS will provide a certificate to that effect, which will need to be presented at Tribunal. ACAS will, however, continue to be available to conciliate if a Tribunal claim is issued.

Financial penalties against employers who lose in Tribunal will take effect from April, if it’s found that the employer has breached employment rights following an “aggravating feature”. However, “aggravating feature” has yet to be defined but could include the size of the company, the duration of the breach and the behaviour of both the employer and the employee. Tribunals could impose a financial penalty of up to £5,000, although this could be halved if paid within 21 days – all of which will be at the Tribunal’s discretion.

Extended flexibility working requests rights will come into force on 6 April. All employees with 26 weeks’ continuous service will have the right, under the Childrens and Families Bill, to request flexible working which is no longer limited to those with children or caring responsibilities.

New rates for statutory payments will increase on 6 April – details of which will be confirmed in due course.

Anticipated Changes
Expected this year are equal pay audits, which will provide Tribunals with the power to order employers with more than 10 employees to carry out an equal pay audit, should they lose an equal pay claim.

Around the Spring time, where employees have been signed off sick for four or more weeks, employers will be able to take advantage of a state funded assessment to be undertaken by an occupational professional.

We will keep you updated of any further changes as and when they happen.

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