Key changes to employment Law – April 2014
This note sets out the key changes to employment law coming into force on 6 April:
1. Mandatory pre claim ACAS conciliation
A new process called Early Conciliation will be introduced. For the first month until 5 May 2014, the process will be voluntary but from 6 May 2014 it will be mandatory for all claimants to contact ACAS who will attempt to promote a settlement.
There will be four steps to this new conciliation procedure: –
- Before launching a claim, a prospective claimant must send to ACAS certain information
- ACAS will send this information to a conciliation officer
- The officer must try to promote a settlement within a one month perio
- If no settlement is reached, the conciliation officer must issue a certificate to that effect. The claimant cannot issue a claim without the certificate.
Please be aware that the time limits for bringing claims will be extended so employers should be aware of this in order to be able to calculate when the tribunal time limits will expire.
2. Abolition of discrimination questionnaires
Statutory discrimination questionnaires will be abolished. This does not mean however that individuals cannot submit questions and employers will still have to consider whether any questions submitted should be answered. If any such questions are ignored or answers given are evasive, the tribunal can still take account of this.
Arguably, the repeal of this process may expose employers to a risk of overlooking valid questions – this may come out at Tribunal and possibly affect the eventual outcome of the claim. ACAS has issued guidance and encourages employees to deal with any potential discrimination at work “seriously and promptly”.
3. New tribunal penalties for employers
Tribunals will have the power to order a losing employer to pay a financial penalty. This will apply where an employer has acted in a malicious or reckless way. The tribunal can award a penalty of 50% of the net award subject to a minimum limit of £100 and a maximum limit of £5000. There will be a 50% reduction if the employer pays the penalty within 21 days.
4. Maximum compensatory award increase
The maximum compensatory award where employment has ended on or after 6 April 2014 will be increased to £76,574 (or 52 weeks gross pay if lower).
5. Increase in statutory rates
Statutory maternity pay will increase to £138.18, statutory sick pay will increase to £87.55 and a week’s pay for calculating statutory redundancy pay/basic award will increase to £464.
6. Abolition of Percentage Threshold scheme
Under this scheme, employers whose total SSP paid in a month exceeds 13% of the class one national insurance contributions can reclaim the SSP from HMRC. This scheme will be ending. The government however will be establishing a new health and work assessment/advisory service which will provide state funded health assessments for employees off sick for four weeks or more and case management support for employees with complex needs. This should help support small employers deal with what can often be difficult sickness situations.
How we can help
Employment law is always changing. Aeris Employment Law can help keep you up-to-date with the various changes and advise you on what steps you may need to make to your own procedures to take account of the changes.