employment law MATTERS - June 2014
Welcome to the June edition of Employment Law Matters. All eyes are on Sporting events for the next few months, with the World Cup in June closely followed by our home Commonwealth Games in Glasgow. While lots of fun, these types of events do occasionally provide a headache for HR, with some more unusual excuses being handed in! We include guidance from ACAS as to how best to deal with these situations in the workplace.
In addition, we look at new rights for employees to work flexibly, and new practice rules for those who need to prove a right to work in the UK.
Finally, we welcome Greg Fletcher to our team, who is a great addition given his track record in HR.
Enjoy the sport, and as ever, if there are any questions, please do not hesitate to contact us.
Welcome Greg to the team
This month has also seen a change to the employment team. We would like to introduce our newest addition to the team, Greg Fletcher. Greg holds a substantial background in HR. He spent 15 years in the retail, financial services and charity sectors before deciding to retrain into law. Greg is now focused on finding HR and legal solutions that are practical and tailored to his client’s needs.
This months articles
ACAS has released ‘Word Cup Advice and Guidance’ for employers. Like London 2012, this is a summer with a number of key sporting events, including the World Cup, the Glasgow Commonwealth Games, the Ryder Cup at Gleneagles, not to mention Wimbledon and loads of other events. The guidance for the World Cup provides helpful suggestions that apply to all of the sporting events occurring this year.
Issues for employers are likely to include additional requests for annual leave, increased sickness and absence, fitness for work (did the employee stay up too late watching a game, or have one too many at the pub last night?), and perhaps the odd employee using the Internet or other electronic devices during work hours to keep up with events. The key for employers is to try to be flexible, and consider temporary arrangements with respect to annual leave and time away from work. This may mean several employees being off at the same time – or letting employees take annual leave or unpaid leave a few hours at a time to watch big games or events.
Additionally, make sure your social media policy is up to date, and that you remind employees about drinking or being under the influence if they pop out to the pub to watch a game during normal working hours.
At the end of this month, all employees with twenty six weeks (6 months) service will have the right to apply to work flexibly. No longer does the employee have to be a parent or someone with caring responsibilities. It will be up to employers to develop procedures that are efficient and fair. A few important points for employers to keep in mind.
For the next couple of weeks you may need to run two systems. Any application received before the 30th of June needs to follow the present flexible working system, included adhering to the strict time limits. So if the request is in progress, keep following the old policy and procedure.
Review your current policy and make sure that it complies with the new requirements. Consider going the extra mile and provide employees with the right to be accompanied to meetings, and the right of appeal if the request is turned down.
Employees still have to make the request in writing, and can only make one request each year.
The new provisions may provide some flexibility for trial periods.
Update managers and employees on the changes, so they know what to expect.
A few tips:
A desire to have full time workers, so part time scheduling/job shares, etc., don’t have to be dealt with, is not on its own one of the reasons to refuse a request.
Don’t assume that men never need flexible working arrangements.
Flexible working remains important for parents of disabled children or those with caring responsibilities. These requests need to be treated carefully to avoid an indirect or associative disability discrimination claim.
Since 1 October 2013, employers who fail to pay the minimum wage can be publically ‘named and shamed’!
If an employer is issued with a Notice of Underpayment, they only have a few days to appeal the notice or they will be considered for public naming by the government. On the 8th of June 2014, the Department for Business Innovation and Skills published a list of 25 employers including a national hire company, retailers, a pub, a restaurant, and hairdressers that failed to pay employees the minimum wage.
Rules around minimum wage, holidays, commission, on call work, etc can be very confusing, and leave employers exposed to the negative reputational issues that arise from being named as an employer who fails to pay staff the correct wage. Additionally, the government plans to legislate so that employers can be fined up to £20,000 for each individual worker that is underpaid instead of a penalty being applied for each employer. Don’t get caught out. We can help.
Remember the standard rate for the national minimum ways goes up on the 1st of October 2014.
a 19p (3%) increase in the adult rate (from £6.31 to £6.50 per hour)
a 10p (2%) increase in the rate for 18-20 year olds (from £5.03 to £5.13per hour)
a 7p (2%) increase in the rate for 16-17 year olds (from £3.72 to £3.79 per hour)
a 5p (2%) increase in the rate for apprentices (from £2.68 to £2.73 per hour)
Tribunal figures for January – March 2014 were released in early June. They show that the number of single claims was 59% lower in 2014 than the same period of 2013. This figure may yet be revised upwards as a claim is not considered as accepted until the fee is paid, and some claims will still be in the remission process and are not reflected in the figure above.
Employers are required to prove that all employees have the right to work in the UK. Failure to carry out the checks, or to have evidence of the checks can lead to fines of £20,000 for each worker. On the 16th of May 2014, the Home Office released updated codes of practice for employers. Some of the changes include;
A reduced list of acceptable documents for proof of right to work, including the REMOVAL of work permits, and general Home Office letters.
Changed the frequency of follow-up checks.
International students with limited right to work are required to provide an employer with evidence of their academic term, and holiday times for the duration of their studies.
Several other changes regarding documentation and time periods.
They also published a helpful ‘Statutory Excuse Checklist’ for employers, please click here to view it.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article site are soley those of the original authors and other contributors and do not purport to give specific legal advice.