Thursday, 30 April 2015

April 2015 employment law changes: an eight-point checklist

However changeable employment law may be, one thing you can rely on is that many of those employment law changes will take effect in April. The introduction of shared parental leave is the significant development for April 2015, but are you aware of the other changes taking effect in April 2015? Clio Springer reviews this spring’s imminent employment law changes.

1. Shared parental leave takes full effect

The right to take shared parental leave and receive statutory shared parental pay applies to qualifying parents of babies due on or after 5 April 2015. Some employers will have received requests for shared parental leave already.
Mothers can return to work early from maternity leave, or give advance notice that they intend to do so, and share untaken leave with their partner. The critical point for employers is that employees can take their shared parental leave as discontinuous periods, interspersing periods of work with periods of leave. They can also take leave at the same time as each other.
Shared parental leave applies also to adoptive parents.

2. Adoptive parents’ rights are enhanced

Adoptive parents’ rights are to be more closely aligned with those of mothers taking maternity leave.
Currently, to qualify for adoption leave, an employee must have 26 weeks’ service with the employer. From 5 April 2015, this continuous service requirement for adoption leave will no longer apply. Further, the amount of statutory adoption pay will increase and adopters will be entitled to paid time off work to attend appointments to have contact with the child.

3. Ordinary parental leave extended

With all the attention focused on the introduction of shared parental leave and pay, it is easy to forget that the right to take up to 18 weeks’ unpaid parental leave (which applies to employees with at least one year’s continuous employment) is being extended.
Currently, it applies to parents of children under five unless the child has a disability, in which case the age limit is 18. From 5 April 2015, it will apply to parents of children under 18 in all cases.

4. Major changes to pension rights

Keep track of employment law changes

XpertHR’s legal timetable provides summaries of pending employment laws and regulations, with implementation dates.
There will be a significant increase in the flexibility around accessing defined-contribution or money purchase pensions savings. At present, in most cases, the only option for people in one of these workplace pension schemes is to purchase an annuity.
From 6 April 2015, individuals aged 55 or over will be able to access their pension funds flexibly, subject to their marginal rate of tax. There are different options in how they will be able to do this and it will still be possible to purchase an annuity or receive a pension from an occupational scheme, as under the current rules.

5. Changes to national insurance

As announced in the Chancellor of the Exchequer’s 2013 Autumn Statement, from 6 April 2015, employers’ national insurance will not be due in relation to employees under 21. The exemption will apply to earnings up to the upper secondary threshold.

6. Limits on unfair dismissal tribunal awards increase

Other employment law changes in April 2015 include increases in the limits in tribunal awards and other statutory rates. From 6 April, the limits on the amount of compensation that an employment tribunal can award for unfair dismissal increase. So the limit on the compensatory award and the amount of “a week’s pay” for calculating the basic and additional award will rise.
The rise in the limit on the amount of a week’s pay also affects redundancy payments. The maximum guarantee payment payable to an employee in respect of a workless day also increases.

7. Statutory maternity, paternity and adoption pay increase

From 5 April 2015, the standard weekly rate of statutory maternity pay, paternity pay and adoption pay will increase. Statutory shared parental pay will be payable at the same rate.

8. Statutory sick pay increases

From 6 April 2015, the weekly rate of statutory sick pay will increase.
My Comment: see the full article at that excellent site (personnel Today)  to whom my thanks.

Hard Labour Guide to UK Employment law election pledges

This piece from "The Hard Labour Blog"

Set out below is a table of Employment Law -related commitments made by each of the parties in the run up to the 2015 Election. It will be updated as each party further defines its manifesto. If you represent a party you are welcome to contact us to fill in a gap or clarify a commitment. However, any information you provide must be party policy and have been made explicit publicly so that a reference can be added to allow it to be checked by readers independently. (the full article)

My Comment:   This is an excellent piece,   very informative,  full of detail.    It's quite a read though
so if you click the link,  have some refreshment handy or your lunch,  and make yourself comfortable.

Thursday, 2 April 2015

April Newsletter Keep up to date in the world of employment law

My periodic newsletter on all things employment law related that I think you should be aware of.
View this email in your browser
Hello  << Test First Name >> ,
  
  I did say last month that election manifesto promises and pledges would be coming thick and fast, and as I go to print, Labour have stolen a march with employment rights announcements,  I'm tempted to shout "hold the front page"  and wait to see what the other parties might come up with,  but they might not comment on employment issues .   So here you are for now, I will of course keep up with all announcements and news as they emerge!     
 Read on for details, and, as always, call me or mail me if you have any concerns about this edition's content.

Kind regards,     Paul 
 

First The News:   Labour party to ban zero-hours contracts


Labour has proposed banning zero-hour contracts for employees working regular hours for longer than 12 weeks.
This pledge revises Labour’s previously proposed policy to entitle those working regular hours for 12 consecutive months to automatically move to a regular contract.  For more details see this link to my blog were I've provided copy from the excellent HR Magazine.   read more
 

My comment:  As I opined last month, the promises will be coming thick and fast this month, do, please read the next item as another example of "promises, promises" ! 
 


Newsflash:   Labour pledges to abolish the employment tribunal fee system.........,or does it ??    

The Labour party has, this morning, published its Work Manifesto, A Better Plan for Britain's Workplaces.    
It pledges to abolish the "employment tribunal fee system" (p6 final paragraph).

But hang on...  is that abolishing fees entirely, or just the current system (and replacing it with another)?  It's not entirely clear.  At page 12, it says: "We will ask Acas to oversee a process led by the CBI and the TUC to ensure reforms to the system."  So it looks like the latter, and is a bit wishy-washy anyway.  Because we all know how often the CBI and TUC agree on things...



My Comment:    thanks to Daniel Barnett site for this timely piece,   and he's quite correct,   manifesto promises are coming thick and fast !      see more at:  Daniels site

Parental leave stigma lessens  

Over half (56%) of people say they would consider taking shared parental leave, a figure that rises to 65% among 18- to 24-year-olds, according to Allen & Overy research.
The report highlights changes in attitudes, with only 3% of respondents saying the stigma associated with sharing parental leave would impact their decision. 
The research also found that 61% of men would consider shared parental leave in comparison with 52% of women. 
See more at:        


My Comment:  I've said this before too,     there is growing pressure on all parties to increase social benefits in general, one good way is improve maternity/paternity provision, and have the employer pay for it! 
our thank to HRMagazine for this item.
 
And finally tonight ! 

.April fool's day:  when workplace pranks go wrong.....,,
 
Workplace pranks are harmless fun most of the time, but there are occasions when a
practical joke in the workplace can have serious consequences for both employers and employees.
 
Stephen Simpson rounds up seven employment law cases in which workplace pranks led to legal action, including allegations of misconduct leading to dismissal, harassment against colleagues and serious injury for which the employer could be liable  read the full article details


My Comment:      health warning,  this is quite a long article,   ideal over a coffee break, but does contain some material that readers may find distressing.                                        



That fine publication Personnel Today provided the piece.  see them at:

 
   

 

Most employment issues can be sorted, provided action is taken before the problem puts down roots.  Seek advice at an early stage.   Call me if you're not sure about an issue,  it might not even be a problem !
 


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Health& Safety Myths

A light hearted look at some of the idiotic things we hear.  As ever I couldn't produce this stuff on my own, my continuing thanks to the HSE website for all this information see them
 
Case 348 -CHILDREN NOT ALLOWED BALLOONS

 

Issue

Enquirer was told that they could not give out air-filled balloons to children after a library book event due to unspecified health and safety reasons. Instead they had to burst them and throw them away.

Panel opinion

What a lot of hot air! There are no health and safety regulations which stand in the way of children having fun with balloons.


Case 255 - Council staff not allowed to tackle dog fouling in children's play area:

Issue

A Council were requested to clean up multiple dog fouling from an infants play area, however, the Council replied using the following unjustified health and safety reason for not clearing up the dog fouling "Unfortunately, the Council's grounds maintenance team are not allowed to tackle dog fouling by hand (including spades) for health and safety reasons."

Panel decision

 Saying that their staff cannot clear up the mess for health and safety reasons is incorrect. Any risks to adults from clearing up after dogs can be easily managed by simple precautions and good hygiene.
Our grateful thanks to the HSE website for this excellent source material  see them at

 

 The information contained in these pages is an HR overview and not intended to be comprehensive legal advice, always seek specific qualified advice before taking any action that could lead to litigation.   Equally, were we have provided links to external web pages, we are not responsible for the content of other sites.

Copyright © 2015 paul murray HR consultant, All rights reserved.
I send this to all my valued clients, colleagues and people I've actually spoken to, if you find this an intrusion, my apologies, please just unsubscribe.

Wednesday, 1 April 2015

April Fool’s Day: when workplace pranks go wrong


Workplace pranks are harmless fun most of the time, but there are occasions when a
practical joke in the workplace can have serious consequences for both employers and employees.
Stephen Simpson rounds up seven employment law cases in which workplace pranks led to legal action, including allegations of misconduct leading to dismissal, harassment against colleagues and serious injury for which the employer could be liable.
Employer not liable after employee set fire to colleague during “horseplay”
Graham v Commercial Bodyworks Ltd (Court of Appeal) In this 2015 decision, the Court of Appeal held that an employer could not be held liable for injuries caused by a prank gone wrong in the workplace after one employee set fire to another during “horseplay”.
Two workers in a bodywork repair shop were joking about when one set fire to the other with a cigarette lighter and flammable thinning agent, causing serious injury. The worker who was injured claimed that his employer was liable to compensate him for the injuries caused by the perpetrator’s actions.
The Court of Appeal reviewed the case law on employer liability for employees’ acts of violence and concluded that “frolicsome but reckless conduct” cannot normally be said to have occurred in the course of employment, meaning that it was inappropriate to impose liability on the employer in this case.

Workplace pranks: a history of violence
It has long been established that employers can avoid liability for practical jokes in the workplace if they can show that the jokers were acting on a “frolic of their own”, for example by doing something totally unconnected with work.
Two contrasting cases from the 1950s show this principle in action:
Smith v Crossley Brothers (Court of Appeal, 1951)
As a “practical joke”, two mechanics removed a colleague’s trousers and inserted a rubber hose into his bottom. The rubber hose expelled compressed air, causing serious injury.
The Court of Appeal found that the employer was not liable for the resulting injuries as there was nothing that the employer could have done to prevent such unpredictable actions.

Hudson v Ridge Manufacturing Co Ltd (Court of Assizes, 1957) An employee’s wrist was broken when a colleague wrestled him to the ground as a practical joke. The colleague was a known practical joker and had a reputation for playing pranks. The employer had been aware of this for years.The employer was found to be liable for the injury because it was obvious that the joker posed a danger, but it had done nothing to prevent him from committing further pranks.
Male manager fairly dismissed for “attempting to touch a colleague’s testicles and bottom”
Charlton v Orange PCS Ltd (employment tribunal)
A sales manager at a call centre was accused of attempting to touch a colleague’s testicles and bottom. The two men had a history of conflict.
The sales manager denied that he had done this, although he did admit that he liked “pranks” and could not rule out that he had made a “rugby gesture”.
The manager was dismissed and claimed unfair dismissal. The employment tribunal rejected his claim, deciding that the employer had a genuine belief based on reasonable grounds that the claimant was guilty of the alleged misconduct, and had carried out a fair disciplinary procedure.

Manager’s wheelie-bin prank recorded on CCTV
Adamson v Mitchells & Butlers Retail Ltd (employment tribunal)
An employee’s workplace prank can undermine the employer’s trust and confidence in him or her, and warrant summary dismissal, as this case demonstrates.
A large company dismissed the pub manager of one of its flagship venues. He was recorded on CCTV being pushed around in a wheelie bin by a female colleague. He fell out of the bin and embraced the woman. Damage to a door was later discovered.

The employment tribunal concluded that, although the manager was apologetic and admitted that getting into the wheelie bin was “a ridiculously stupid act”, his dismissal was fair because the employer had lost all trust and confidence in him to manage the premises on its behalf.

Sabotage of heterosexual employee’s Facebook page to suggest he is gay was sexual orientation harassment
Otomewo v Carphone Warehouse Ltd (employment tribunal)
This case is a good example of how a practical joke in the workplace can have a sinister discriminatory undertone. It is also a reminder that it is possible for a heterosexual employee to be subjected to sexual orientation discrimination, even if the harasser knows that the employee is not gay.
Two members of staff took a heterosexual manager’s phone without his permission and updated his Facebook status to saying: “Finally came out the closet. I am gay and proud.” His colleagues knew that he is not gay.
The employment tribunal upheld the manager’s sexual orientation discrimination claim, concluding that the employer could be liable for the entries made on the phone. The entries had been made by its employees in the course of their employment. The employees’ actions took place at work and during working hours, and involved dealings between staff and their manager.

Suggestion that toy helicopter be landed on employee’s turban was harassment
Bal v Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (Jobcentre Plus) (employment tribunal)
It is possible for an employee’s threat of a prank, without the joke actually being carried out, to be sufficient to create problems for the employer.
The claimant in this case is Sikh, and wears a turban. A radio-controlled toy helicopter was being flown around the office and being landed on various flat surfaces. Someone suggested that the toy helicopter be landed on the claimant’s turban.
The claimant brought a claim for religion or belief discrimination for various alleged incidents, including the toy helicopter incident. The employment tribunal upheld the claim, considering that an individual’s wearing of a turban is inherently connected with religion and, regardless of the intentions of the alleged harasser, the actions were discriminatory.


“Full-blown moony” constituted sexual harassment
AM v GF and another (employment tribunal)
As with so many discrimination cases, this decision involves a “joke” that went badly wrong.
In a workplace in which “banter” and joking were commonplace, a female employee complained of an incident in which a male colleague “dropped his trousers, bent over with his hands on his knees, and was shaking his bottom”.
The employment tribunal held that, although there was evidence of a history of joking and that mooning was a “way of life” in this workplace and was used as a morale booster, the claimant’s colleague’s actions were unwanted and of a sexual nature. The tribunal upheld her sexual harassment claim.

Age-related practical jokes among evidence of age bias against older worker
Nolan v CD Bramall Dealership Ltd t/a Evans Halshaw Motorhouse Worksop (employment tribunal)
Sometimes, a series of practical jokes that would not by themselves be viewed as serious can be used as evidence that there is something more serious behind employees’ attitudes to a colleague.
In this case, the employment tribunal held that the employer discriminated against the claimant on the ground of age by making him redundant because he was close to retirement.
The tribunal drew an inference of age bias against the claimant from this workplace’s frequent age-related practical jokes, such as changing the number plate on his car from “OAB” to “OAP”

Shared parental leave stigma lessens

Over half (56%) of people say they would consider taking shared parental leave, a figure that rises to 65% among 18- to 24-year-olds, according to Allen & Overy research.

The report highlights changes in attitudes, with only 3% of respondents saying the stigma associated with sharing parental leave would impact their decision. 
The research also found that 61% of men would consider shared parental leave in comparison with 52% of women. 
“Times have changed radically,” said Allen & Overy partner Sarah Henchoz. “It’s no longer presumed it will be the woman left holding the baby, and there’s less stigma when a man chooses to be active in childcare or indeed when a woman decides to go back to work early.” 
Henchoz said businesses will have to consider providing cover not just for women taking maternity leave but for any employee potentially, and that parents taking intermittent periods of absence “may be problematic”. 
Less than a quarter (23%) of respondents said they would not consider shared parental leave. The most common reason was financial implications (49%), which was most important to 25- to 34-year-olds (62%). 
The number of SME businesses offering enhanced pay for maternity and shared parental leaves has dropped to 7%, but figures have risen to 19% among large businesses. The report found that 12% of organisations offer enhanced maternity leave but do not offer enhanced pay for shared parental leave. 
Henchoz said: “Most businesses are trying to do the right thing, but it is a complicated matter balancing affordability, diversity, talent attraction and retention, and work/life balance.” 
“However, that does not change the fact that those only offering enhanced pay for maternity leave might find themselves under pressure from the significant group of employees who may want to take shared parental leave but will find it unaffordable without enhanced pay.”

My Comment:   as ever, those fine folk at HR MAGAZINE  have provided this excellent piece .
(is the research company for this piece really called overy ??)

Labour pledges to abolish employment tribunal fee system... or does it?


The Labour party has, this morning, published its Work Manifesto, A Better Plan for Britain's Workplaces.     

It pledges to abolish the "employment tribunal fee system" (p6 final paragraph).

But hang on...  is that abolishing fees entirely, or just the current system (and replacing it with another)?  It's not entirely clear.  At page 12, it says: "We will ask Acas to oversee a process led by the CBI and the TUC to ensure reforms to the system."  So it looks like the latter, and is a bit wishy-washy anyway.  Because we all know how often the CBI and TUC agree on things...


My Comment:    thanks to Daniel Barnett site for this timely piece,   and he's quite correct,   manifesto promises are coming thick and fast !   

Labour party to ban zero-hours contracts

contracts

Labour party to ban zero-hours contracts

Rebecca Gowler , 01 Apr 2015
Labour has proposed banning zero-hour contracts for employees working regular hours for longer than 12 weeks.
This pledge revises Labour’s previously proposed policy to entitle those working regular hours for 12 consecutive months to automatically move to a regular contract. 
Under this new policy, 90% of an estimated 1.8 million people in the UK on zero-hour contracts would have the right to move to a regular contract if they wanted. 
Labour leader Ed Miliband said: “If you are working regularly, you have a legal right to a regular contract”. 
He added: “It [the practice of zero-hours contracts] is leaving people without a reliable income, not knowing from one day to the next how much work will be coming in, unable to plan from one week to the next.” 
Critics of Labour’s proposed policy say, however, that banning zero-hour contracts will give UK businesses less flexibility. 
 “The UK’s flexible jobs market has given us an employment rate that is the envy of other countries, so proposals to limit flexible contracts to 12 weeks are wide of the mark,” CBI director-general John Cridland told the Guardian newspaper. 
“Of course action should be taken to tackle abuses, but demonising flexible contracts is playing with the jobs that many firms and many workers value and need. 
“These proposals run the risk of a return to day-to-day hiring in parts of the economy, with lower stability for workers and fewer opportunities for people to break out of low pay.” 
The UK has seen a 20% increase in zero-hour contracts in the last year. 
Labour has also pledged that its zero-hours bill would ensure that workers on zero-hours contracts are not obliged to be available over and above their contracted hours, are allowed to work for other employers, and are entitled to compensation if shifts are cancelled at short notice.

The only exemption from Labour’s zero-hour contracts bill, the party says, would be for employees – such as nurses – who specifically requested a zero-hours contract because they wanted to work at another hospital for example as well as their usual job.

My Comments,     my thanks to HR Magazine for this excellent and timely piece,  and the links are all theirs.