Happy New Year! After an incredible year of employment law change in 2013, what does 2014 hold for HR and business? We look into our 2014 crystal ball...
Already, from 1st January, we have seen a cap on banker's bonuses. However, the major proposed change is the introduction of new TUPE Regulations on 31 January 2014. The most significant changes proposed are:
- The rules on service provision changes will remain, but new legislation will clarify that for there to be a TUPE service provision change the activities carried on after the change in service provision must be "fundamentally" the same as those carried on before it.
- The requirement to provide employee liability information will remain, but the information will have to be given 28 days before the transfer, rather than the current 14 days.
- A change of workplace location following a transfer will expressly be an economical, technical or organisational (ETO) reason for dismissal. This means genuine place of work redundancies won't be automatically unfair.
In April, we expect discrimination questionnaires will be abolished. Also from April, a new mandatory pre-claim Acas conciliation scheme will be introduced. Under this new scheme claimants will have to submit details of their dispute to Acas before issuing a claim in an employment tribunal. Pre-claim early conciliation will last for one month. If conciliation is refused by either party, or is unsuccessful, the claimant will be able to go ahead and present their claim to the employment tribunal. If the parties enter into early conciliation, this will 'stop the clock' on the limitation period to present the claim to the employment tribunal.
April will also see financial penalties for losing employers introduced into the employment tribunal. A losing respondent could be ordered to pay between £100 and £5,000 as a penalty for the way it has conducted itself in the litigation. This will apply to any case. The penalty will be reduced by 50 per cent if it is paid within 21 days. However, the levy of a financial penalty will be at the tribunal's discretion; it will not be automatic.
April could also possibly bring changes to the right to request flexible working. The right to request flexible working could be extended to all employees with 26 weeks' service, rather than just those employees who qualify as parents or carers. Employers will also no longer be required to follow the statutory procedure regarding flexible working requests, and must instead consider all requests reasonably. A new approach to sickness absence management could also be introduced in April. Following a major review of workplace sickness absence, the government will introduce a new Health and Work Advisory and Assessment Service which will provide state-funded occupational health assessments and case management support for employees with complex needs to facilitate their return to work. April will also see the yearly reviews of statutory pay (maternity etc) and also for the first time in April, a review of the overall unfair dismissal compensation cap (usually 1st February)
In October, we expect employment tribunals will have the power to order equal pay audits where an employer is found guilty of gender pay discrimination. October will also see a review of National Minimum Wage Rates as well as new legislation outlawing caste discrimination. There is also an expected repeal of employment tribunal powers to make wider reviews in discrimination cases.
Phew – this is a whistle stop run through of the expected changes to legislation this year. It is certainly going to be busy. We will continue to update our readers on all the changes in more detail once we have information from government.
Consistent with our policy when giving comment and advice on a non-specific basis, we cannot assume legal responsibility for the accuracy of any particular statement. In the case of specific problems we recommend that professional advice be sought.