2013 was quite a year for employment law change, with a continuation of the general ethos of the favour swinging back into the favour of the employer over the employee. We saw the introduction of pre-termination confidential negotiations which allow an employee to have a conversation with an employee about ending employment by settlement agreement even where there is no dispute. We then saw the emergence of the new employment status of ‘employee shareholder’, where, if used, the employee would have no right to claim unfair dismissal. They would, however, have a right to be given shares in the employing company.
There will also be significant moves in 2014 in terms of employment rights – some are advantageous for employers, others represent harsher consequences for non-compliance with employment law.
In January we will see great change in the law relating to business sales and contract changeovers which are covered by the Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) Regulations 2006 (TUPE). Previously, it had been unavoidable in certain situations where a company had been purchased, or a contract had changed hands, for employees to have been automatically unfairly dismissed where the geographical locations of the new employer and old employer were large, or where travel from one to the other was not a reasonable expectation for the employees involved. The changes will mean that employers will be able to avoid the inevitable automatic unfair finding.
Generally, the regulations are being made more flexible and will allow employers to move more freely when they buy a company or when a contract is moved without the risk of an employee claiming automatic unfair dismissal. Whilst most TUPE changes will take place in January, some will not take effect until April and July.
From April 2014, tribunal claims will have to be sent to the conciliatory body Acas in the first instance rather than to the tribunal service directly. This is because the Early Conciliation scheme will be put into place. When a tribunal claim is made, Acas will be obliged to offer conciliation where the claimant wishes for this to happen. If conciliation proves unsuccessful, or if the claimant does not wish to participate in Early Conciliation, the claimant can continue with their tribunal claim.
From April 2014, the criteria attached to who has the statutory right to request flexible working will be removed, meaning that all employees will be able to make a request to adjust their working pattern or request to work from home. Employees will still need to have 26 weeks’ service to make a request and only one request per year will be allowed.
From April 2014, tribunals will have the power to order employers who lose a claim against them at tribunal to pay a fine to the exchequer, with a minimum of £100. This will be in addition to the award made to the claimant, and the fee reimbursement. It is also expected that the national minimum wage will increase in October 2014, but this is yet to be confirmed.
For any further information regarding legislation changes in 2014, call the advice service on 0844 892 2772.