UK Recruiter article
This article first appeared in UK Recruiter Newsletter 27 Jan 2012.
Louise Fernandes-Owen of Field Fisher Waterhouse LLP highlights the key recent employment law developments.
Employment law in 2012 - a look ahead
2012 looks set to be a busy year for employment law. Here are some key dates for your diaries:
- New tribunal award limits will come into force on 1 February. The maximum compensatory award for unfair dismissal will increase from £68,400 to £72,300 and the limit on the maximum amount of a week's pay for the purposes of calculating statutory redundancy pay or the basic award for unfair dismissal will increase from £400 to £430.
- Statutory sick pay will increase from £81.60 to £85.85 and statutory maternity, paternity, additional paternity and adoption pay will increase from £128.73 to £135.45.
- The qualifying period for unfair dismissal is due to double from one to two years on 6 April.
- In its recent response to the 'Resolving Workplace Disputes' consultation, the Government indicated that a range of changes are intended to have effect from April (including the increase in the limit for deposit orders from £500 to £1,000 and the increase in the maximum cost award from £10,000 to £20,000).
- The National Minimum Wage is likely to increase (subject to the Low Pay Commission's review, which is expected by the end of February).
- Compulsory pensions will be introduced from October. The date on which compulsory pensions first applies is known as the employer’s “Staging Date”.
Other notable changes for 2012 (no firm dates announced)
- Early conciliation through ACAS
- The introduction of "compensated no fault dismissals" for micro-firms and a consultation on the introduction of "protected conversations"
- Financial penalties for employers who breach employment rights
- Consideration of “rapid resolution” scheme, to provide quicker, cheaper, determinations in low value, straightforward claims
- Consultation on proposals to clarify compromise agreements
- Potential reduction of the 90 day minimum consultation period for collective redundancies and potential simplification of TUPE (the Government has called for evidence on both issues and the deadline for responses is 31 January 2012)
Creating a 'what you know, not who you know' culture
More than 100 major British businesses have signed the Government’s Business Compact on social mobility, intended to open doors to people from all walks of life, ending the ‘who you know, not what you know’ culture.
The Business Compact forms a key part of the Deputy Prime Minister’s Social Mobility Strategy, launched in April 2011, which sets out the Government’s determination to ensure every individual is free to achieve, regardless of the circumstances of their birth. Businesses and organisations which sign up to the Compact must agree to a number of objectives, which will have an impact on the recruitment sector. They include:
- opening opportunities to all young people by advertising their work experience places through schools, online and in other public forums, rather than just giving places to informal contacts.
- making access to internships open and transparent, with financial support such as providing expenses or accommodation, or by treating the internship as a job that can be paid under National Minimum Wage law.
- recruiting fairly and without discrimination, using application forms that don’t allow candidates to be screened out because they went to the wrong school or come from a different ethnic group (including through using name-blank and school-blank applications where appropriate).
Signatories to the Compact include:
- nearly 20 major finance firms including Barclays, HSBC and Santander
- more than 10 high street retailers including Asda, Tesco, Sainsbury’s and Marks & Spencer
- 11 well-known consumer brand manufacturers including Coca Cola, P&G and Nestle
Quarterly Employment Tribunal statistics published
The Tribunals Service has published quarterly statistics for 1 July to 30 September 2011. The figures show that during this period, Employment Tribunals received 40,300 cases, a 30 per cent decrease in overall claims to Employment Tribunals, compared to the same quarter of the previous year. The number of single claims decreased slightly, whilst the number of multiple claims went down by 41 per cent.
Countdown to the 2012 Olympics – are employers prepared?
As employers ease themselves into the New Year, dealing with the impact of the London 2012 Olympics may not be top of the agenda. However, with just under 200 days to go, now is the ideal time for employers to start planning.
Whether employees are ticket holders, volunteers or simply tempted to take a 'sickie', it is advisable for employers to be prepared. There are various factors to consider, ranging from increased absences, flexible working and performance issues. Timed to coincide with the countdown, ACAS has published a short guide, which highlights some of the key steps that employers should take:
- start communicating with staff now about attendance during the Olympics and provide guidelines in relation to requesting leave – e.g. requests could be dealt with on a 'first come, first served' basis. Unauthorised absences may increase during this period, so remind staff of your existing absence/disciplinary policies.
- consider whether to introduce greater flexible working. This may include changes to working hours or allowing working from home, particularly if employees are likely to be affected by transport problems during the Olympics.
- inform employees about the policy on watching coverage of the Olympics on their computers. Employers may wish to provide access to a television for the most popular sporting events.
- consider whether to make specific arrangements for employees who have volunteered as 'games makers' and ensure that any policy is clear and applied consistently.
200 days may still seem like a long way off. However, considering these steps now and taking a flexible approach, where possible, should make for an enjoyable Olympics, both for employers and employees.