Employment law updates

 

The Government has announced an increase to the compensation awards that can be made by the Employment Tribunals and to the statutory rates used to calculate certain employee payments.

From 6 April 2014 the following increases will come into force:

  • week’s pay (used for calculating statutory redundancy payments and certain tribunal awards) will increase from £450 to £464.
  • The maximum compensatory award for a successful claim of unfair dismissal will rise from £72,000 to £76,574 (although since 29 July 2013 these awards are the lower of 52 weeks’ pay and the maximum compensatory award).
  • The maximum basic award for unfair dismissal/statutory redundancy pay therefore increases from £13,500 to £13,920.The minimum basic award will increase from £5,000 to £5,676.

The above increases will only apply to events that give rise to compensation that occur on or after 6 April 2014.

The following statutory rates have also increased in line with inflation:

  • Guarantee pay (used during periods of layoff and short-time working) will increase from £24.20 to £25 per day.
  • Sick pay will rise from £86.70 to £87.55.
  • Maternity, ordinary and additional paternity and adoption leave will rise from £136.78 to £138.18.

For further information please contact Reina D’costa at reina@bizlawuk.co.uk

Prevention is better than Cure!

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Implementation delay on flexible working

Implementation delay on flexible working rights being extended by the Children and Families Bill to all employees who have completed 26 weeks qualifying service as from 6th April 14 as was originally intended.

 

To speak to us about employment rights in the UK please email reina@bizlawuk.co.uk or visit our website to find out more about the services we offer.

A case study

An employee at a business had a grievance with the manager. His issues were not taken up seriously and when the time came to terminate his service he easily brought a claim for unfair dismissal. The cards were stacked against the employer who could have followed the Recommended processes and then managed to have a smooth termination instead of having to settle out of tribunal.

For advice on employment law in the UK email reina@bizlawuk.co.uk

 

Bank’s top lawyers call on law firms to follow flexi-work lead

Lloyds Banking Group’s two most senior lawyers have moved into a job-sharing arrangement, in a high-profile example of changing attitudes towards flexible working in the legal profession.

Group general counsel Andrew Whittaker (pictured) and his deputy Kate Cheetham have agreed a flexible working plan following Whittaker’s move to the bank in May from the Financial Services Authority, where he was also GC.

Though Cheetham works full time, she effectively shares the leadership of the legal team with Whittaker, who is contracted to a 0.6 full-time equivalent post. The duo said Whittaker’s regulatory experience complements former Linklaters lawyer Cheetham’s background in corporate law.

“The professional relationship between us is very strong, and we work very flexibly day to day in a way that combines our various skill-sets,” he said.

Whittaker did, however, acknowledge that the oversight of Lloyds’ legal affairs, alongside the management of a 370-strong in-house team, means he can be called on at any time.

“Jobs at this level of seniority require you to be available whenever you are needed,” said Whittaker, who retains ultimate responsibility for the bank’s legal division.

About 20% of Lloyds’ legal team works flexibly, including several practice heads, as part of a bank-wide initiative, backed by group chairman Sir Winfried Bischoff, which dates back to 2011.

Last month, Lloyds – together with several law firms including Eversheds and Addleshaw Goddard – launched the Agile Future Forum, a non-Government body that has identified greater “workplace agility” as a source of potential growth to the UK economy.

Whittaker said flexible working was a key step “to attract and retain a high level of talent on a permanent basis”.

“You end up with a better legal service, and colleagues who can have a bit more fun in their life,” Cheetham added. “Otherwise, it’s not sustainable.”

Cheetham also said that while certain roles – such as transactional or management-intensive positions – made such initiatives harder to achieve, her arrangement with Whittaker showed it was possible.

Cheetham also expressed a belief that law firms were falling behind when it came to similar approaches: “They put their struggle down to client demand – I think it’s their business model. They need to flex their teams to make sure one or two people don’t end up working 24/7.

“We do talk to law firms about diversity issues, and we do share views and best practice in a number of industry discussion forums. It’s also a topic in a number of industry bodies to help promote diversity and flexible working.”

The news comes as a report into flexible working published this month by the RSA and Vodafone suggests flexible working policies increase employee and organisational productivity, cost savings and wellbeing levels.

Contact reina@bizlawuk.co.uk to see how we can help

Employment law come into effect from today (29 July 2013)

1. Fees

For the first time, fees are now payable in the Employment Tribunal. There are two levels of fees which will depend on the type of claim being brought:

• For straightforward claims such as a redundancy payment or holiday pay, the issue fee is £160 and the hearing fee £230.

• For more complex claims such as unfair dismissal or discrimination, the issue fee is £250 and the hearing fee £950.

If a Claimant fails to submit the issue fee with their claim form before the time limit to bring a claim expires, they will lose the right to bring the claim. Claimants who are unable to meet the fees because of their personal circumstances can apply for full or partial remission.

There will also be fees for making applications to the Employment Tribunal: (a) for review of a default judgment; (b) for review of a final judgment following full hearing; (c) to dismiss a claim following settlement; (d) for an “employer’s contract claim” (a counter-claim); and (e) for judicial mediation. Fees will have to be paid by the party submitting the application.

2. Employment Tribunals rules of procedure

There has been an overhaul of the Tribunal’s rules of procedure giving Employment Judges wider case management powers. The changes have been largely welcomed but time will tell how much of an impact they will have. The full scope of the changes is too far-reaching to set out in full in this e-bulletin, but by way of illustration, we set out two key examples below:

1. The introduction of a “sift stage”. Once the claim form and response (defence) have been received by the Tribunal, an Employment Judge will consider the papers and decide whether the whole claim or part of it should be struck out for having “no reasonable prospect of success”. If this power is exercised correctly, this would be highly beneficial to the Respondent, particularly from a costs point of view, if a claim is struck out without the need for preparing a response or attending any hearing.

2. There will no longer be separate case management discussions (CMD) or pre-hearing reviews (PHR). These have been replaced by a single “preliminary hearing”. Currently a CMD deals with administrative matters such as setting a timeline for steps to be taken in preparation for the full Tribunal hearing. However, certain matters cannot be dealt with at a CMD, for example requesting a deposit order or determining a preliminary matter relating to the proceedings, such as whether a Claimant has a disability. Currently, a PHR is needed to deal with these more complex matters. We anticipate that a single preliminary hearing will be more efficient and will reduce costs for our clients.

3. Compromise agreements

Compromise agreements will be renamed “settlement agreements”. The change is in name only and not to the substantive content of the agreement itself.

4. Pre-termination negotiations

The concept of “pre-termination negotiations” is introduced. This permits employers to make an offer or have a discussion with an employee about the termination of their employment and any proposals for settlement terms, provided that there is no “improper behaviour”. This means that employees will not be able to refer to such offers or discussions in evidence if they bring an Employment Tribunal claim. However, employers should take note that this applies only to cases of unfair dismissal and not, for example, to any discrimination claims.

Many employers have welcomed this change but in our view there are some serious questions as to how effectively it will work in practice. For example, difficulties could arise where multiple claims are raised and employees allege discrimination and/or breach of contract at the same time as unfair dismissal. In this case, pre-termination negotiations could be referred to in Employment Tribunal proceedings (subject to the current “without prejudice” rules).

Contact reina@bizlawuk.co.uk to see how we can help.