Neglecting to keep up to date with employment law changes will inevitably lead to problems.
Two types of problems will be caused – both of which are best avoided. You may be undercutting your employee where the employment relationship is concerned – not paying them enough, not paying them for certain types of time off that they are entitled to, not implementing particular procedures that employment tribunals will expect you to implement. This type of problem will likely lead to complaints and claims.
The other type of problem will not result in a tribunal claim, but may well land managers in trouble with their bosses! Occasionally (and it is happening much more frequently in recent times) the Government will repeal legislation which protects employees, thereby leaving the employee in a worse position than previously. For example, the minimum redundancy collective consultation period is being halved from 90 days to 45 days. Still allowing a minimum of 90 days in ignorance of this change would increase the employer’s wage bill considerably.
A further example: You own a fairly large distribution warehouse where there are daily visitors delivering goods. One of your employees comes to you and tells you that some regular delivery men have been ‘bullying’ her – wolf-whistling at her, making derogatory comments of a sexual nature to her, suggesting that she wear short skirts and asking her what she is doing at the weekend. They are also trying to involve other members of your staff in the behaviour. You may decide to tell her to pull her herself together and just get on with her job, she’s an adult for heaven’s sake and should be able to deal with it.
You don’t do anything with her complaints because these delivery men are not your employees so you don’t think you have any liability in connection with them. You would be wrong. The Equality Act 2010 introduced a liability for employers who do not prevent discrimination from 3rd parties in the course of work e.g. suppliers, customers, clients. The employee could take you to tribunal and may potentially win a lot of money.
This causes you to change your practices and procedures and make sure you deal with any complaints of this nature in the future.
What you then need to be aware of is the change that is planned for 2013, where this liability on employers will be repealed, therefore removing the opportunity for employees to make this type of claim.
This is an example of the fact that even the Government will be convinced that one of their decisions was the wrong one, and will act to change the law.
By Nicola Mullineux
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