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Blog  »  September 2014
Sep 14

Posted by
Laura Murphy

Four UK Employment Law Changes from 1st October 2014

2014 has been a busy year already for employers with the changes in flexible working and the introduction of early conciliation by ACAS. October sees the introduction of further amendments:

1. Antenatal rights for fathers and partners

Fathers and partners will have the right to unpaid time off to accompany a pregnant woman to an antenatal appointment on up to two occasions.

2. National minimum hourly wage increase

a. The adult rate will increase from £6.31 to £6.50
b. The rate for 18 – 20 year olds will increase from £5.03 to £5.13
c. The rate for 16 – 17 year olds will increase from £3.72 to £3.79
d. The rate for apprentices will increase from £2.68 to £2.73

3. Employment Tribunals must order equal pay audits

Where a tribunal finds an employer in breach of equal pay, they must order the employer to carry out an equal pay audit unless an exception applies

4. Increased protection against unfair dismissals for Reservists

From 1 October, where an employee is dismissed because they are a member of a reserve force, the normal two-year service requirement for bringing an unfair dismissal claim does not apply, and an employee may bring a claim immediately in these circumstances.

Bright Contracts – Employment Contracts and Handbooks.
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Posted in Contract of employment, Employment Contract, Employment Update, Staff Handbook

Sep 14

Posted by
Laura Murphy

Giving an employee reference - be careful!

Writing a reference for an ex-employee may at the outset seem straight forward, however employers need to be cautious.

What Can Go Wrong

If you provide a reference you have a duty to take reasonable care to ensure it is true, accurate, and fair and not misleading.

• If you provide a bad reference that you can’t substantiate, you run the risk of your former employee suing you for damages if they did not get the job.
• If you provide a glowing reference for an employee who has not been satisfactory and that employee goes on to perform badly in their new job, the new employer could claim damages against you.

Your Options

• Do not give references as a matter of policy. Employers are generally under no obligation to provide references. If you decide on this option as policy it is advisable to reply to reference requests with a statement that it is not your policy to give them, particularly to avoid misunderstandings perhaps with employers believing that you had problems with the employee.
• Give the bare facts: many employers provide the minimum details e.g. the employee’s position and dates of employment. Again if this is your policy it is advisable to state that it is your policy not to provide further details.
• Providing a full reference. You may decide to give a full reference giving details for example about the employees attitude, timekeeping, drive etc. If you decide on this option remember you have a duty to ensure the content is true, accurate, and fair.
• Do not include sensitive personal data in a reference, e.g. information about the individual’s health, race or trade union membership, without first obtaining the ex-employee’s consent.
• Include a disclaimer: many companies aim to limit liability by adding a disclaimer stating that they cannot accept any liability for errors or omissions in the reference. However, in reality, how much protection a disclaimer will provide may be limited.

Whatever option you decide to go with the key is to be consistent. Inconsistency could lead to a claim of discrimination from a disgruntled employee. It is best to establish a policy clearly stating whether you give references, if you do, who should give them and what they should contain.

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Posted in Contract of employment

Sep 14

Posted by
Laura Murphy

ACAS early conciliation scheme - is it a success?

Since 6th May 2014 any employee who lodges an employment claim must have made an Early Conciliation notification to ACAS. On receipt, ACAS begin a process of trying to resolve the dispute, and must issue an Early Conciliation certificate before the claim can progress to an employment tribunal.

Although employees must notify ACAS of their intention to bring a claim to an employment tribunal, actual participation in any early conciliation efforts is voluntarily. Equally, if ACAS contacts the Company regarding early conciliation their participation is also optional.

Results to Date

Over the first two months that the service was operations ACAS received between 6,500 and 7,000 notifications per month.

Interestingly 10% of notifications brought to ACAS were from employers rather than employees. This is a canning move by employers seeking to pre-empt possible tribunal claims from employees. By raising a notification to ACAS, employers are hoping to save money on legal and tribunal fees by resolving the issue with the employee early.

The success of the scheme is still very much in the balance. ACAS have, very positively, quoted that only 7% of employees and 9% of employers did not want to participate in early conciliation, however on further inspection only a very small percentage of notifications have been successfully resolved during the Early Conciliation Process. Some of the reasons given for failed processes included: the ACAS conciliator was ineffective and that the process was poor.

Time will tell whether or not this scheme is a success, what does seem apparent is that the scheme is very much at an early teething stage.

Bright Contracts – Employment Contracts and Handbooks.
BrightPay – Payroll & Auto Enrolment Software.

Posted in Company handbook, Contract of employment

Sep 14

Posted by
Laura Murphy

Can employers legally enforce a dress code?

Yes, employers may legitimately request that their employees dress or appear in a certain way at work once they can show a reasonable business reason. There are various reasons why employers may wish to introduce such measures:

• Health and Safety: for example health care workers may not be allowed to wear jewellery for safety reasons around patients, certain clothing may not be allowed in factories while operating machinery, and employees in the food industry may be required to have their hair tied back.
• Promoting a certain image: an employee’s appearance can reflect the ethos of the organisation, which can be particularly important for those dealing with customers or business contacts. For example, sales representatives generally need to maintain a high standard, whereas in some organisations uniforms are used to communicate the corporate image.

Key Considerations

• Non-discriminatory: any dress code should be non-discriminatory and should apply equally to men and women, although standards can be different, e.g. women must wear “business dress” and men must wear a “suit and tie”.
• Religious Dress: this area should be dealt with extremely cautiously. Employees should generally be permitted to wear clothing/jewellery that represents their religious belief. Employers who put restrictions in this area should have clear business or safety reasons for doing so which do not indirectly discriminate against these employees.

Introducing a Dress Code

Employers who decide to introduce a dress or appearance code should have it clearly drafted in a policy which should be clearly communicated to all staff so they understand what standards are expected of them. Employers must be prepared to make reasonable adjustments to their policy for disabled employers if required. Employees who do not comply with set standards may be subjected to disciplinary procedures.

Bright Contracts – Employment Contracts and Handbooks.
BrightPay – Payroll & Auto Enrolment Software.

Posted in Company handbook, Contract of employment


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