Employment Law Changes 2014: 10 things employers need to know

Firstly, happy new year and may it be a prosperous one!
As the year kicks off with amendments to TUPE in January, other challenges for business include changes to employment tribunal procedures, the right to request flexible working and on a positive note, the introduction of the Health and Work Service.

Here is our guide to the 10 key updates for the year ahead. The changes are in date order of implementation . As the year goes on we will continue to update you on legislative and case law changes.

Financial penalties imposed on employers that breach employment rights [April 2014]

The Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act 2013 gives tribunals the power to impose a financial penalty against employers that are in breach of employment rights. If the tribunal makes an award of compensation, the amount of the penalty will be 50% of the award. The penalty is subject to a minimum threshold of £100 and an upper ceiling of £5,000. However, employers will qualify for a reduction of 50% if they pay the penalty within 21 days after the day on which notice of the decision to impose the penalty is sent to the employer.

Window for pension automatic enrolment extended [1 April 2014]

The time period available to employers for auto-enrolling eligible jobhoilders into a qualifying pension scheme increases from one month to six weeks on 1 April 2014. This will ease a bit off pressure of employers.

Right to request flexible working extended to all employees [6 April 2014]

Currently employees who have children under the age of 17 (18 if a child is disabled) or who are carers, may request flexible working. This will be extended to ALL employees. The statutory process for considering requests is replaced with a duty to deal with the request in a reasonable manner. The Government has confirmed an implementation date of 6 April 2014. More information will follow shortly as this could have an impact on all employers.

Statutory rates increase [6 April 2014]

The rate of statutory maternity pay, ordinary and additional statutory paternity pay and statutory adoption pay increases from £136.78 to £138.18 per week and then standard rate of statutory sick pay, increases from £86.70 to £87.55 per week. All increases take effect from 6 April 2014.

Early conciliation introduced [6 April 2014]

The Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act 2013 introduces a requirement for potential claimants to lodge details of their proposed employment tribunal claim with ACAS in the first instance from 6 April 2014, whereupon ACAS will offer the parties the opportunity to engage in conciliation with a conciliation officer. APM can act on behalf of the Company and the Personnel Manager annual membership includes this service. This should help to reduce litigation costs.

Discrimination questionnaire procedure repealed [6 April 2014]

On 6 April 2014, the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act 2013 repeals the statutory procedure that enables an individual to obtain information from his or her employer about discrimination and provides for the information to be used as evidence in tribunal proceedings. We have had few claims in this area, but it does remove a bureaucratic procedure.

New approach to managing sickness absence introduced [Spring 2014]

The Health and Work Service is to be introduced, offering free occupational health assistance to employees, employers and GPs, including an independent assessment of employees who have been off sick for four weeks. The Government has indicated that the new service may be delivered in spring 2014, but this has not been confirmed. More information will follow in due course, as soon as the Government has worked out the detail.

National minimum wage may rise [Review Spring 2014; Implementation October 2014]

The national minimum wage may rise on 1 October 2014, subject to the prevailing economic conditions and the Low Pay Commission’s report, is due to be delivered to the Government in spring 2014.

Tribunals given power to order equal pay audits [October 2014]

The Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act 2013 prescribes that employment tribunals are required to order an equal pay audit where the employer has breached the equal pay provisions under the Equality Act 2010, except in prescribed circumstances. The Government has indicated an implementation date of October 2014. More information will follow nearer the time.