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Employment Law Changes for 2014

Posted by TonyBrownEmploymentSolicitor on January 6, 2014

The government intend to make the following employment law changes in 2014:

Changes to TUPE

A number of changes to TUPE will come into force on 31 January 2014. They include:

  • For TUPE to apply to a service provision change, the activities carried on after the change must be ‘fundamentally or essentially the same’ as those carried on before it;
  • The obligation to provide employee liability information will be 28 days rather than 14 days before the transfer as is currently the case;
  • Changes in the location of work place will qualify as ‘economic, technical or organisational (ETO) reason, with the result that genuine place of work redundancies will no longer run the risk of being automatically unfair;
  • The current provisions restricting changes to transferring employees’ terms will not apply to changes made for “transfer-related reasons”; and
  • Small businesses will be allowed to inform and consult with their employees directly where there is no recognised independent union or existing appropriate representatives. 

Introduction of mandatory pre-claim ACAS conciliation

On 6 April 2014, compulsory pre-claim ACAS conciliation will require potential claimants in employment tribunal proceedings to lodge details of their proposed employment tribunal claim with ACAS before bringing a claim. ACAS will contact the parties, offering them the opportunity to engage in pre-claim early conciliation with a nominated conciliation officer for a prescribed period of a month.

If the parties agree to enter into early conciliation, this will effectively stop the clock on the limitation period for presenting the claim to the tribunal whilst this takes place. However, if either party refuses early conciliation or it is unsuccessful (for example, because a settlement is not achieved within the prescribed period), the claimant will be issued with a certificate by ACAS enabling them to proceed with issuing proceedings in the tribunal.

Abolition of discrimination questionnaires

On 6 April 2014, discrimination questionnaires will be abolished and an individual will no longer be able to use them to obtain information from their employer to use as evidence in tribunal proceedings.

Extension of right to request flexible working

Currently, under existing legislation, the right to request flexible working is restricted to employees who qualify as parents or carers. However, from 6 April all employees with 26 weeks' service will have the right to request flexible working.

Employers will also no longer be required to follow the existing statutory procedure in dealing with flexible working requests; instead they must consider all such requests in a ‘reasonable manner’. A statutory code of practice is introduced to give guidance to employers as to the meaning of ‘reasonable’.

Employers will continue to have the right to refuse requests on business grounds.

Imposition of financial penalties on employers who lose in the ET

Expected to come into force from 6 April 2014, tribunals will have a discretionary power to impose a financial penalty on employers who lose at tribunal where the breach of employment rights has one or more aggravating features. The amount of the penalty will be 50% of any financial award but subject to a minimum of £100 and a maximum of £5,000. Employers who pay the penalty within 21 days will qualify for a reduction of 50%.

New approach to sickness absence management

The government intends to introduce the Health and Work Service, a state funded health and work assessment and advisory service which will offer free occupational health assistance for employers, employees and GPs, including:

  • Independent assessment by occupational health professionals of employees who have been off sick for four weeks or more; and
  • Case management advice for employees with complex needs who require ongoing support to facilitate their return to work.

The government also intends to abolish the SSP record-keeping obligations and to allow employers to keep records in a more flexible manner.

Introduction of equal pay audits

From October 2014, the Government plans to introduce regulations giving employment tribunals the power to order equal pay audits where an employer is found guilty of gender pay discrimination in relation to contractual or non-contractual matters.

Increase in statutory pay rates

From 6th April 2014, the rate of statutory maternity, adoption, paternity and sick pay will all increase. The new rates have yet to be announced.

In October 2014, the annual increase in national minimum wage rates will also take place. Again, the new rates have yet to be announced.

If you would like advice about how the issues in this note apply to your situation, please contact Tony Brown on 01225 740097 or by e mail to tony@bathemploymentlaw.co.uk

Warning – this bulletin is for information only and does not claim to be comprehensive or to provide legal or other advice. You should take legal advice before taking or refraining to take any action. No liability is accepted for loss that may arise from placing reliance on this bulletin.