Changes in force from 6 April
April 6 brings a number of Employment law changes, many of which are well-known, but some less so.
- New limits on a week's pay for unfair dismissal and redundancy pay purposes, along with other revised compensation limits.
- An increase in Statutory Maternity, Paternity and Adoption Pay rates (prescribed rate), which rise to £138.18, (with a new Lower Earnings Limit of £111) and Statutory Sick Pay, which rises to £87.55 per week
- Early Conciliation (EC) which will become available for prospective claimants on 6 April and will then become compulsory for any claim presented on or after 6 May 2014. It has recently been confirmed that a claimant will need to present an EC form for each prospective organisation or individual against which a claim may be made (respondent), or name each one if EC is initiated by telephone, which resolves the potential problem of some respondents being unaware that EC is taking place if another potential respondent is the only one named by the claimant.
- The abolition of statutory discrimination questionnaires, although in their place there is new ACAS Guidance.
- The introduction of financial penalties for employers that lose Employment Tribunal claims where their breach of an individual's rights had "aggravating features"
- The abolition of the 'Percentage Threshold Scheme' to reclaim Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) where the total SSP in a month exceeds 13% of an employer's class 1 National Insurance Contributions for that month. This move is perhaps not so well-known, but is part of the Government's reform of the sickness absence system: the savings will help fund the new health and work assessment and advisory service due to be introduced later this year or early 2015. It is thought that abolishing the scheme will encourage employers to manage absence properly rather than effectively reward them for higher absences
- The abolition of the obligation to keep records of dates of sickness and payments made for SSP purposes
- Increased civil penalties for employing illegal workers. The maximum penalty is being increased from £10,000 to £20,000 for each employed adult who does not have the right to work in the UK, if the employer cannot establish that prior to employing them it carried out specified checks set out in the Guide for employers on preventing illegal working in the UK.
- Changes to pension contributions following a transfer under the Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) Regulations 2006 (TUPE). Employers taking on staff under TUPE are required to make a certain level of contribution to money purchase or stakeholder schemes. However, with the introduction of auto-enrolment, an employer could be required to match up to 6% of an employee's contribution even if the employee had only received, for example, 1% prior to the transfer. These changes are intended to redress that balance.
In addition to these changes, on the horizon are:
- The increased timescale of 28 days for notifying Employee Liability Information under TUPE, which applies for transfers taking place on or after 1 May 2014,
- The extension of the right to request flexible working to all employees from 30 June, under the recently passed Children and Families Act 2014,
- Increases to the National Minimum Wage in October, as announced in the Budget. From 1 October, the adult rate will be £6.50 per hour; the development rate (18-20 year-olds) will be £5.13 per hour; the youth rate (16-17 year olds) will be £3.79 per hour; and the apprentice rate will be £2.73 per hour.