What are the key employment law changes in 2014?
Q: Our board is soon to sit down to do our personnel planning for the coming year. Are you aware of any upcoming changes in employment law this year that we would do well to take into consideration?
A: 2014 looks set to be a busy year for changes to employment law, with most of the definite changes so far taking place up to April, with perhaps more to come later in the year. From my viewpoint, these are the ten changes that will have most impact on employers in 2014:
1. 31st January, 2014 – Changes to TUPE
To all-round relief, proposals to do away the service provision change arm of TUPE (Transfer of undertaking protection of employment) have been abandoned after consultation revealed its removal would create too much uncertainty over the application of TUPE on service changeovers. Less radical changes now being made to TUPE include:
- Service provision change – for TUPE to now apply to a service provision change, the activities carried on after the change must be 'fundamentally the same' as those carried on before it.
- Employee liability information must be given 28 days before transfer, rather than 14 days.
- An Economic, Technical or Organisational (ETO) reason must be given for change of workplace location, protecting genuine place of work redundancies from the risk of being seen as unfair. This change applies both to variations of contract and dismissals.
- Relevant transfers – restrictions on changing employment contracts where there is a relevant transfer are now relaxed if the variations are by reason of a transfer, so long as the changes are permitted by the contact.
- Micro-businesses with fewer than 10 employees may now inform and consult directly with employees where there are no employee representatives.
2. 6th April, 2014 – Right to request flexible working extends to all employees
All employees can now request the right to work flexibly – and not just those who parent a child, or care for an adult. Also the current 'right to request' procedure is to be replaced by a duty on employers to deal with requests in a reasonable manner, within a reasonable time.
3. 6th April, 2014 – Pre-claim conciliation
Claimants must submit details of their complaint to ACAS, where they will be offered the option of a one month pre-claim conciliation before they can lodge the claim with the tribunal. Then, only if conciliation is unsuccessful can the claimant lodge a tribunal claim.
4. April, 2014 – Financial penalties for breaching employment rights
Tribunals will now have the power to impose a financial penalty of between £100 and £5,000 against employers who are found in breach of employment rights and where the breach has one or more aggravating features.
5. Indicated date of October, 2014 – Greater tribunal powers
In 2014, on a date still to be confirmed, the tribunal will be granted the additional power to compel an employer to carry out a pay audit, if found guilty of gender discrimination in terms of pay equality.
6. Spring, 2014 – Introducing the Health and Work Assessment and Advisory Service (HWAAS)
HWAAS will manage sickness absence by offering free occupational health assistance to employees, employers and GPs, including an independent assessment of employees who have been off sick for four weeks.
7. 6th April, 2014 – Abolition of Statutory Sick Pay recording
Employers will now be free to keep records as best suits their organisation.
8. 1st April, 2014 – Pension enrolment extension
The time period for enrolling eligible joiners into a qualifying pension scheme increases from one month to six weeks.
9. 6th April, 2014 – Discrimination Questionnaires abolished
Discrimination questionnaires, which enabled employees to obtain information from their employer about discrimination, will be abolished and replaced with a new, less burdensome, more informal process.
10. Indicated date of 1st October, 2014 – National minimum wage may rise
Dependent on prevailing economic conditions and the Low Pay Commission's report, due to be delivered to the Government in Spring 2014, the national minimum wage may rise on 1st October 2014.