Each week, Peninsula Business Services invite business owners, finance directors and senior management to take advantage of our national program of FREE Employment Law and Health & Safety Webinars.

Amanda Chadwick

2013 was a very busy year for employment law, and 2014 certainly shows no signs of slowing down. As a business owner it is highly important that you keep up to date on changes that will impact your company.

In this webinar, I will provide you with all the vital information regarding forthcoming legislation in 2014.

If you would like any further information or advice on employment law changes for 2014 then please call our advice service on 0844 892 2772 or contact us online.

Click Here for the Video Transcript:

Good morning everybody, hello. Welcome to my webinar today. I am Amanda Chadwick. We have been for over 30 years now. We have over 27,000 clients. We currently help in-house with HR needs, employment law, defending, indemnifying – well, insuring, health and safety, employee assistance programmes and lots of different stuff. We support people every day. We’ve had some great news. We are in the top 100 companies to work for, as voted by The Times. And today, we’re talking about looking forward and back on legislation changes, which is quite an interesting webinar because we’re talking about things that you should have done last year, or thought about last year, and things that are going to happen this year. So, it’s quite an interesting webinar. It won’t last for 45 minutes. So, you should be a bit happy there, but we will try and make it as quickly as possible for you.Okay, so let’s see, 2013 was a very busy year for employment law legislation. And in fact, we started seeing changes round about March, with the entitlement to parental leave increased from 13 weeks to 18 weeks per parent, per child. I like to see mention of this in your employee handbook. I like to see how you tell people to take it and what the process is. That’s what I like to see in your employment law handbook. We then moved to April and we saw the minimum redundancy consultation period reduced from 90 days to 40 days where 100 or more redundancies are proposed.What we can see from this is that the government are swaying, legislations to help the employer in times of not recession any more, but growth.They are trying to help the employer. We then saw in June whistleblowing legislation was amended. The good-faith requirement was removed, and a new public interest test was introduced. And employers may now be vicariously liable for detrimental acts, by their staff against others who blow the whistle. So, be aware of that, get a whistleblowing policy in place, within your handbooks. In June again, same month, criminal record checks became portable, meaning employees can carry them from job to job, within the same sector, avoiding the need for another full check to be done. So I like to see mention of this again in the employment law handbook, and this is more likely to affect people that work in the care sector, nurseries, children’s hospitals, that type of thing. This makes it easier for the employer to manage, and the employee, making them portable. In June again, lots of things happening in June last year. We have the qualifying period for dismissal related to political opinion. It was removed.

So, remember that harassment policy? The equal opportunity policy? Make sure you’ve got that in your handbook. In July, we saw new eligibility criteria was introduced for Croatian nationals, wanting to work in the UK. Quick reminder there, for everybody listening to me. You should be checking everybody that works for you, to make sure they’ve got the right to work in the UK. Have a reminder system in place, to remind you whose working permit is about to expire, because the fines for employing illegal workers, is actually going to go up, it’s going to double. Excuse me. July again, employment tribunal fees were introduced. And we thought that would alter tribunals, we have just seen a surge. It’s sort of evening out now, but we’re still seeing a continued drizzle of tribunal cases. And then again in July, July was a busy month. Compromise agreements were renamed settlement agreements and pre-termination confidential negotiations were introduced, meaning that a settlement agreement, discussion, could safely take place, where there was no existing dispute.

Unfair dismissal. Compensatory award cap was adjusted to 52 weeks’ pay in July. And in September, so we have a little bit of a gap there. July, August and then September, the new status of employee shareholder was introduced, where employees give up certain significant employment rights for shares in the employer’s business. In October, the employer’s liability for third-party harassment of their staff was removed. So, that would be doctors’ surgeries, people that work at a chip shop, a shop. I’m thinking of where somebody might go after hours when they have had a drink, and then be abusive to the staff members. In a doctor’s surgery, in the Job Centre, that type of place, that’s who will be affected by this. All this was in addition to the usual annual increases to tribunal awards, statutory pay rates and national minimum wage, etc.

So, that was 2013. And if you’re there, sat there now listening to me thinking, “Gosh, I didn’t know half of that,” then you need to look at what you have got in place.

What legislation changes are we looking for in 2014? Look, it doesn’t seem to be slowing down. It is still speedy, speedy, change, change, change. This government doesn’t hold back. If it’s making a change, it happens.

So, on 31st January, this is this month, TUPE legislation will be amended to generally provide more flexibility for the employer, okay? And here what you should be looking at is also what I’m going to mention in a moment, about April and July. The change includes, okay, the transferee will be able to consult on collective redundancy prior to transfer if the transferor permits this. Dismissals because of a change in location, will not be automatically unfair. Dismissals/changes to terms were the sole principal reason for dismissal/change, will not be automatically unfair/void, where there is an ETO reason and entailing changes in the workforce. Inclusion in the statutory test for service provision changes, that the activities carried out before the transfer, are fundamentally the same as those carried out after the transfer.

Renegotiated terms of collective agreement will not need to be honoured by the transferee, and terms can be varied after one year. They are trying to make it easier for the employer.

So, what are we looking forward to? Well we’ve got April haven’t we? April is always that month. 6th of April, the early conciliation system will be implemented, meaning that tribunal claims will be made to ACAS, who will then attempt to conciliate. So, you are going to see employers getting telephone calls off ACAS, saying, “Can we sort this out?” Claims will no longer be sent directly to the Tribunal Service. So if you have an issue, if you have a dispute, if you have a tribunal forthcoming, ACAS will ring you first, to try and sort it out.

6th of April, the Statutory Discrimination questionnaire will be repealed and replaced with a more informal approach, for employees who would like to pose questions to their employer, about possible discrimination. Equality, harassment policy, equal opportunity policy, get that in place.

6th April, the statutory right to request flexible working will be extended to all staff with 26 weeks’ service, and we’re going to have an insight to that in a moment. We’re going to go into that in depth. So, I like to see something in your handbook, we have mentioned to you flexible working as well.

On or around the 6th of April, we’re looking at tribunal awards and statutory rates of pay, i.e. statutory guaranteed pay, maximum weeks’ pay, the statutory redundancy pay, statutory of maternity pay and statutory sickness pay, to be increased, okay? That is on or around the 6th April.

On the 6th of April, financial penalties will be introduced for employees who were have found to breached employment legislation. The transfers with TUPE occurring from the end of April, the changes to the notification of employee liability information provision, in TUPE will take effect, meaning that the information must be provided 28 days before the transfer, rather than 14.

For transfers taking place on or after 31st July, employers in a micro-business, that is ten or fewer employees, with no trade union presence, or existing employee representatives, will be able to consult individually with their staff rather than hold an election. So it makes it simpler for smaller businesses.

What is also expected in 2014, but we haven’t had confirmation of these as yet, is increases to the national minimum wage, which we’re looking for in October. State-funded occupational health assessment after four weeks of sickness. Power for tribunals to order an employer to conduct an equal pay audit when they are found to have breached equal pay legislation, and the audit will need not be published. So, those are what we’re looking forward to in 2014. I think you will agree it’s going to be a superbly busy year for employment law and legislation changes. But remember, we have also got some other things bubbling in the background, that may happen, and one of those is zero-hours contract consultation, following huge press coverage during 2013, on the use of zero-hour contracts. The government has released a consultation, asking for views on the future of such contracts.

There has been much controversy over the perceived misuse of these contracts, because they sometimes tie individuals into a contract which provides no guaranteed hours, but also restricts them from working elsewhere. The consultation also asks the question on these exclusivity clauses, and whether they should be banned in full. It also asks whether additional guidance and advice would improve the transparency of zero-hour contracts, together with an employer-led code of practice, and model clauses for the contract. The consultation will run until March 2014. And the government response is expected in summer 2014. If you’re using zero-hour contracts and you want some advice and help, remember, we’re here to help you. But also, at the same time, these are brilliant contracts, if they are used in the right way. And remember, you might think you’re using a zero hour contract, but if you are guaranteeing somebody work every week, there is a commitment here, and it overrides what’s there. So let’s be very careful with these.

So let’s have a focus here, let’s talk about this extension of the right to request flexible working. As I mentioned, the right to make a flexible working will be extended in April 2014. That’s something to look forward to in April. Let’s look back on the history of why it’s there and what we have had to deal with in the past. So, this is the history of the right to request flexible working. And then we will come bang up to date, as to what’s to happen in April 2014.

Right, the right to request flexible working was introduced back in 2003. What a magnificent year that was. I can remember it very well. Statutory dispute resolution procedure, the right to request flexible working. The list was endless in 2003. This gave a certain band of employees, the right to make a request to their employer to amend their working patterns. It only gives the right to make a request; it’s not an automatic right to have the working patterns adjusted. Remember that. Upon original implementation, the right to request only applied to those employees who were parents (via natural birth, adoption and fostering) or the guardian of a child under the age of 5, or under the age of 18 if the child was disabled.

The right also applied to those who were married to or the partner or civil partner of those above. Subsequent amendments to the legislation have resulted in a significant widening of scope. The right to request now applies to those with children aged 16 and under (under 18, if the child is disabled). Employees with caring responsibilities are now included in the scope specifically, employees who have or expect to be caring for an adult, aged 18 or over who is the spouse, partner, civil partner, near relative of the employee or someone who doesn’t fall into one of those categories but lives at the same address as the employee. Most recently, you might remember, the right has been extended to employed agency workers, upon return from a period of parental leave. Employee shareholders also have a right to request within two weeks of their return from a period of parental leave.

A request at any other time is not considered a statutory request. Regardless of who is making a request, they must have at least 26 weeks’ service, at the date the request is made. And only one request may be made per 12 months. Flexible working can take various forms, remember that. And you have to really think about this. I work with so many employers now, HR and managers, who are looking at all avenues of changing. You know, it’s not just the ordinary part-time work, they are looking at reduction of hours per day and about reduction of days per week. Compressed hours, so that the same amount of hours are done, on fewer days; a change to home working. Maybe, job share, flexible time, night working, term time working. There are lots of other options. Don’t be narrow-minded here, that is a warning.

So, the statutory scheme provides that employees must make an application to their employer setting out their request. They’re specifying the change requested and the date they wish it to start. Explaining what effect, if any, the change will have and how any such effect may be dealt with, and how the employee meets the qualifying conditions. The employer, unless they decide without meeting with the employee, that the request will be permitted, must meet with the employee to discuss the request, and this meeting must be held within 28 days of the application. The decision must be conveyed to the employee within 14 days. The employer may refuse the request permitted; refusal, if it is on one of the prescribed grounds, example, because of the burden of additional costs, detrimental effect on the ability to meet customer demands, inability to re-organise work amongst existing staff etc.

So, that’s what’s happening now, yeah? That’s what is in place now. What are the future plans?

Well, as a result of the government consultation in 2011, the right to request flexible working will be made available to all employees, regardless of caring responsibilities or whether the employee has a child. All eligibility criteria will be removed, except for the 26 weeks’ qualifying service requirement. This extension will come into effect on the 6th April 2014. From this date, there will be no restriction on who can make a flexible working request, nor the reason behind the request.

The following examples will therefore be permissible, as a statutory request for flexible working. And we have got a few examples here. Grandparents, who want to start work later and finish early, to drop off or collect grandchildren from school. Parents of children in university want to pick them up on a Friday and then, drop them off on a Monday morning, so that they can continue with their weekend job at home. Employee who lives remotely wants to change the hours, to avoid peak travel times. An employee who is getting a dog so wants more days at home during the weeks so that the dog isn’t alone. And employee wants to attend a weight loss class on Friday morning. Also, older employees want to reduce their working hours, but not retired fully.

Those are just some examples of what people might ask for. But remember, you know, don’t be frightened of this. We are here as a helping hand anyway. The statutory scheme will also be abolished, getting rid of the need to hold a meeting within 28 days, and to inform of the decision within 14 days. That makes it a little bit easier for you. The scheme will be replaced by a duty on the employer to consider requests in a reasonable manner, within a reasonable timescale, which I think most employers would do. Let’s remember, what might be reasonable to one person might not be to another. A statutory code of practice will be created to help employers understand the element of reasonableness required. Guidance will also be published to assist employers to deal with conflicting requests received at the same time. And how employers can handle temporary changes to working patterns. This restriction of one statutory request per 12 months will remain.

So, we have still got the 26 weeks’ service, we have still got the one request per 12 months. Currently it is also expected that the prescribed reasons refusing a flexible working request will remain unchanged. So, that is an insight into flexible working, and what to look for in April.

So now, a legislation change I have been talking about for the past year. I want you to take this seriously. Pension reforms are still top of my hit list. The basic and employer obligations, effective from 1st October, 2012, you know? That is a while ago now. Have you actually even considered or looked into it? You should be preparing, at least a year in advance. Employers will have to enrolled eligible job-holders into a qualifying workplace pension arrangement. Employers will need to pay contributions for eligible job holders in the scheme. So who do you enroll? Employees that are over the age of 22 and under state pension age. Works or ordinarily works, in the UK. Includes part-time, contract workers and agency workers. And the contract need not be in writing. Remember that. Implied terms, you have heard me talk about that before. Have qualifying earnings. So, when do you need to auto-enrol? So, each employer will be given a date from which the changes will have to be in place. This is known as the staging date. This will be phased in over the next four years, starting with the largest employers. The first staging dates will be October 2012 and will continue until 2016. For us, for most of our clients, this is the year they need to be looking into it. The starting date for most employers will be based on the number of employees on payroll at 1st April 2012.

For employers with fewer than 50 employees, the date will be determined by the employer’s PAYE reference number. And write this down, get a pen now, quickly, run. For more details on staging dates, you can check on www.dwp.gov.uk/docs/staging-dates-by-employer.pdf. I will leave that up for a few seconds.

And remember, this is so serious. You have got to take this seriously. There are fines, there are penalties, if you are not briefing your staff properly, if you’re not keeping them informed, telling them what is happening. You need at least a year in advance, to sort this out.

Okay. So, action points for employers. Check your staging date, assess the workforce to identify the employees that need to be auto-enrolled. Check the workforce status. Conduct a review of any existing pension arrangements in place because they might not be appropriate. Carry out due diligence on a new scheme and have proof of that. Consider additional costs of pension contributions. Consider administration costs, and record keeping requirements. Consider changes to the payroll system. Consider setting up a scheme in advance of your staging date and check the workforce status, and check the terms and conditions of employment because your statement of main terms should mention the pension provider, and the handbook should mention what they do with opt-out, how you opt them out, and how they opt out. And also again, mention the pensions. Those legally are changes that you have to make.

This is why you have got to take it seriously. So, that is 2013, summed up and zipped off and put away, but you should still be listening to it.

2014, another busy, busy year to think about are things to implement into your handbooks, your policies and procedures. I hope you have enjoyed my wham-bam webinar today on employment law legislation for 2013 and 2014.

If you want to catch up with it again later on today, you may find me on YouTube. Give me a chance to upload the file and the recording, but you’ll get me on www.YouTube.com/pdspressoffice. If you’d would like to email me with any questions, or you would actually like to have information about what Peninsula do, or if you would like me to speak at an event as a live person, on behalf of your clients or host something, and Peninsula pay my wages to do that, then you can contact me at Amanda@peninsula-uk.com. If you would like some free advice, either email me or contact myself or my colleague Lee on 0161-827-9915 and ask us to phone you back. And quote webinar number 36 in all correspondence.

For anybody out there, who’s Peninsula’s clients, and you would like some help on the new legislation changes, remember to watch out for the Bottom Line magazine that we send out. Remember to get the Sunday Times, we’re in the ‘Business Doctor’. Peter Done, our owner, our managing director is the Business Doctor. And if anybody would like to know you know, if you want any policies or procedures amending and you are a Peninsula client, that’s what we’re there for. We’re there to hold your hand, 24/7, 365 days of the year. To support you and protect you from tribunals.

We are there for the employer, we’re there for the manager, the director and HR. Remember, that somebody is out there for you. Thank you very much for listening to me today. I hope you have enjoyed my webinar. Goodbye from me.