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06th January 2016

Employment Law Round-Up 2015

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A round up of significant legislative changes and case law decisions.

Significant legislative changes include that;

•    save for the compulsory first 2 weeks of leave for the mother, Shared Parental Leave means that parents can share the remaining 50 weeks of leave (and remaining 37 weeks of pay) in the first year following a birth or adoption;
•    prospective fathers/partners can take unpaid leave to attend 2 antenatal appointments with the mother;
•    18 weeks of ‘ordinary’ unpaid leave to care for each child may be taken up until the child’s 18th (not just the 5th) birthday;
•    pay rates for a number of statutory rights increased on 6 April 2015, including the gross weekly pay figure to £475, the compensatory award for unfair dismissal to £78,335, maternity/paternity/adoption pay to £139.58 per week and statutory sick pay to £88.45 per week;
•    the Fit for Work Service become operational in May 2015, aimed at helping employees return to work following more than 4 weeks’ sickness absence;
•    the Small Business, Enterprise and Employment Bill introduced changes to tribunals, zero hours contracts and whistleblowing legislation, as well as harsher sanctions for non-payment of the National Minimum Wage (which increased to £6.70 per hour in October 2015); and
•    effective from October 2015, organisations with a turnover of £36m or more must publish an annual modern slavery statement, the exemption for turban wearing Sikhs to wear safety helmets was extended to all workplaces, tribunals lost the power to make recommendations beyond a claimant’s own circumstances in a discrimination claim andsmoking in an enclosed vehicle is no longer permitted where a person aged under 18 is present (even if the vehicle is private or is a company car provided mainly for private use).

Significant case law decisions include that;

•    an employee’s ‘normal remuneration’ (possibly including commission (NB: this is subject to appeal) and/or non-guaranteed overtime) should form the basis for calculating holiday pay for the first four weeks of annual leave;
•    an employee on sick leave can roll over holiday for up to 18 months from the end of a holiday year without having to show that they were unable due to illness to take the holiday in that year;
•    an HR department’s involvement in a disciplinary investigation should be limited to advising on policy and procedure, otherwise the outcome could be prejudiced;
•    an employee permanently off sick leave did not transfer under TUPE as merely being ‘on the books’ of the employer was not enough to do so;
•    disclosures regarding an employment contract may still be made ‘in the public interest’ if a number of employees are concerned with the disclosure (NB: this is subject to appeal);
•    agreeing to an ‘out of the box’ request to be accompanied to a disciplinary/grievance hearing may be a reasonable adjustment for a disabled employee;
•    ‘working time’ can include time spent travelling to and from home for peripatetic workers; and
•    collective redundancy obligations are triggered where 20 or more redundancies are proposed at one ‘establishment’, which is the entity to which the redundant workers are assigned to carry out their duties.

If you would like further advice and assistance please click here to contact Elizabeth Swibnurn or visit our Employment Law webpage.