It's that time of year when employment legislation goes through the first of its bi-annual updates. Although this year is quieter than many previous years, there is still a lot happening. A summary of the changes is set out below.
Points-Based Immigration - 31 March
Changes to immigration laws amend the rules applying to business visitors, tighten the regime which applies to highly skilled migrants coming to the UK and brings into force Tier 4 of the points-based immigration system (which relates to students).
Annual Leave - 01 April
The statutory minimum paid holiday entitlement increases from 4.8 to 5.6 weeks. This means a worker who does a 5 day week will receive an extra 4 days holiday (an increase from 24 to 28 days) and implements the Government's commitment to ensure that workers received public holiday entitlement in addition to the 4 weeks' statutory minimum required by the European Working Time Directive.
Statutory Payments - 05 and 06 April
Increases in the standard rate of statutory maternity, paternity, adoption and sick pay take effect.
Repeal of the DDPs and GPs - 06 April
Drum roll please... It's the one we've all been waiting for: repeal of the statutory dispute resolution procedures. "Hurrah!" we hear you all cry. Well, we're sorry to be the bearers of bad tidings, but the discipline & dismissal procedures (DDPs) and the grievance procedures (GPs) could have lingering effects for some time to come. Why? Because of some tricky "transitional provisions". These are meant to ease the transition from one regime to another, but they could in fact cause hidden pitfalls.
In broad terms they say that:
- the DDPs will continue to apply after 6 April if, on or
before 5 April, the employer has either: dismissed the
employee; taken relevant disciplinary action against
him/her; or has complied with step 1 or 2 of the standard DDP, or step 1 of the modified DDP. Therefore, if disciplinary or dismissal action has commenced before 6 April, you need to see it through to the end using the DDPs.
- The GPs will continue to apply where the behaviour, etc. about which the employee is seeking to bring an
employment tribunal claim takes place wholly before
6 April 2009. The GPs will also apply where an employee wants to bring a tribunal claim on or before 4 July 2009 and the matters which form the basis of that claim continued beyond 5 April. Where the issues relate to equal pay or redundancy pay, the GPs will need to be followed for any claim brought on or before 4 October 2009.
Should you require advice on these provisions, please contact a member of our Employment Team.
Discipline & Grievance Code of Practice - 06 April
A new Acas Code of Practice replaces the DDPs and GPs. Unlike the statutory procedures, the Code does not apply to redundancies or expiry of a fixed-term contract.
The 12-page Code (the meat of which only covers 9 pages) is founded on the following basic principles which will be familiar to all employers:
- Issues should be raised and dealt with promptly and
meetings, decisions or confirmation of those decisions should not be unreasonably delayed
- Employers and employees should act consistently
- Employers should carry out any necessary investigations to establish the facts of the case ( to listen to our podcast dealing with disciplinary investigations)
- Employers should inform employees of the basis of the problem and give them an opportunity to put their case in response before any decisions are made
- Employers should allow employees to be accompanied at any formal disciplinary and grievance meeting
- Employers should allow an employee to appeal against any formal decision made.
Employers will also need to digest an 84-page good practice guidance document released by Acas to supplement the Code.
A failure to follow the Code cannot lead to a claim in itself, but any failure to follow the Code will be taken into account by a Tribunal and could lead to any compensation being increased or decreased by up to 25% depending on whether the employer or employee is at fault. Because of this, you should read the Code carefully. While some of it has not changed from the version which has been in place for many years, any failure to follow it could lead to compensation being increased, so a quick refresher of your policies - and your practices! - would be advisable. For example, the Code states:
- Employees and, where appropriate, their representatives should be involved in the development of disciplinary and grievance rules and procedures
- Copies of written evidence should be provided with the
notification to attend a disciplinary hearing, including any witness statements
- The letter notifying an employee of the disciplinary
hearing should also notify them of their right to be
- An employee should be given a reasonable opportunity to call witnesses to a disciplinary hearing
- Disciplinary policies should set out examples of gross
- When disciplinary action is being considered against a trade union representative, depending on the
circumstances it is advisable to discuss the matter at an early stage with an official employed by the union, after obtaining the employee's agreement
- Grievance decisions should be communicated in writing, without unreasonable delay and, where appropriate, should set out what action the employer intends to take to resolve the grievance
- Grievances raised on behalf of two or more employees by a representative of two or more employees by a representative of a recognised trade union or other appropriate workplace representative should be handled in accordance with your collective grievance procedure.
Click here to read an article on the new Acas Code.
Flexible Working - 06 April
The right to request flexible working is extended to those with parental responsibility for children aged 16 or under. The categories of employee who can now request flexible working are therefore those with:
- parental responsibility for a child aged 16 or under
- parental responsibility for a disabled child aged 18 or
- caring responsibility for adults if they are a relative of the person requiring care, or they live at the same address.
Employment Tribunal Rules - 06 April
Changes are made to the employment tribunal rules which include: allowing additional types of claim to be heard by Employment Judges sitting along (rather than as a 3 member tribunal panel), and amending the processes for applying for an extension of time to enter a response, and for ensuring a claim is dismissed once withdrawn by a claimant. Our Employment Team can provide further details.
National Minimum Wage - 06 April
The national minimum wage enforcement regime is being toughened up. A new method of calculating arrears will mean higher pay-outs by employers in breach of the legislation.
Click here to read more.
Trade Union Membership - 06 April
Laws have been implemented to allow a trade union to expel or exclude an individual on the grounds of political party membership (whether current or former).
HMRC Changes - 06 April
Employers with 50+ employees will have to file certain notifications and returns online, and a new-style P45 is launched.
Key Action Points
- Review disciplinary and grievance procedures to ensure they comply with the new Acas Code. Ensure line managers are trained to handle disciplinary and
- Review annual leave policies.
- Review flexible working policy and practice.
- Ensure payroll processes are updated to take account of raised statutory payments and amended HMRC processes.
Should you require advice on any aspect of the above, our Employment Team are on hand to help.
Should you have any queries about any of the above, please get in touch with your usual MMS contact, or:
0131 228 7130
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This briefing is written as a general guide only. It is not intended to contain definitive legal advice which should be sought as appropriate in relation to any particular matter.