Key employment law changes from 6 April 2014 include power for tribunals to impose £5,000 fines on employers
04 April 2014
A number of key changes come into effect on 6 April 2014. They are:
- Power of employment tribunals to impose penalties on employers – In cases presented on or after 6 April 2014, the tribunal will have the power to impose financial penalties on employers who lose at tribunal. The fine will be between £500 - £5,000 and will be imposed where the employer has breached one or more of the claimant’s rights and there are “aggravating factors”. The term “aggravating factors” is not explained or defined but will probably be interpreted as referring to breaches involving unreasonable behaviour e.g. negligence or malice, and not to breaches due to a genuine mistake.
- Early conciliation to come into force – From 6 May 2014, workers who want to bring most types of claims will have to contact ACAS and receive an ‘Early Conciliation’ certificate before they will be allowed to do so. Neither the worker nor the employer will be required to participate in conciliation. The only requirement will be for the workers to contact ACAS and provide contact details for themselves and their employers. However, it may be a good opportunity for some employers to settle prospective claims at an early stage, or at the very least to obtain information about them at an early stage. From 6 April until 5 May 2014, early conciliation will be available but not mandatory. For detailed guidance about the early conciliation process and the practical implications for employers, click here.
- Abolition of statutory discrimination questionnaires – The rule requiring employers to provide an adequate response to statutory discrimination questionnaires or face adverse inferences being drawn by the tribunal will be abolished on 6 April 2014. A new “informal approach” is set out in ACAS guidance as an alternative to statutory discrimination questionnaires. The employer will not be under any legal obligation to answer questions, however, a tribunal may look at whether and how the employer has answered questions as a contributory factor when making their overall decision on the discrimination claim. In addition, a tribunal may order an employer to provide the requested information as part of legal proceedings, in any event.
- Employment tribunal fees increase – With effect from 6 April 2014, some claims which are currently mistakenly categorised as “Type A” claims will be recategorised as “Type B” claims, and so will attract a higher fee (for single claimants, £250 instead of £160 issue fee, and £950 instead of £230 hearing fee). The claims which will be recategorised as “Type B” claims are: Equal pay, sex equality in pension schemes, failure to inform or consult under TUPE, failure to allow compensatory rest under the Working Time Regulations 1998, and breach of the right to request time off for training. The same order which brings this change into effect will also correct errors concerning the definition of “excluded benefits” in relation to fee remissions.
- Maximum compensatory award increase – In cases where the effective date of termination falls on or after 6 April 2014, the maximum compensatory award for unfair dismissal will be increased from £74,200 to £76,574 (or 52 weeks’ gross pay, whichever is lower).
- Statutory maternity, paternity and adoption pay, sick pay and the cap on “a week’s pay” increase – From 6 April 2014, the prescribed rate for statutory maternity, paternity and adoption pay and maternity allowance will increase from £136.78 per week to £138.18 per week. For sick days after 6 April 2014, statutory sick pay will increase from £86.70 per week to £87.55 per week. The statutory limit on a gross week’s pay will increase from £450 to £464.
- Abolition of the Percentage Threshold Scheme – The Percentage Threshold Scheme will be abolished from 6 April 2014. This enabled employers to reclaim statutory sick pay from HMRC where the total statutory sick pay paid in a month exceeded 13% of the worker’s Class 1 National Insurance contributions for that month.
- Abolition of the SSP record-keeping obligations – With effect from 6 April 2014, employers will not longer be obliged to keep specified records of dates of sickness and statutory sick pay payments. The current rule obliges employers to keep such records for at least three years after the end of the tax year to which they relate.
- Increased penalty for employing illegal workers – With effect from 6 April 2014, the maximum civil penalty for employers who are found to have employed adults who are subject to immigration control but who do not have the right to work in the UK will be increased from £10,000 to £20,000.
- Changes to TUPE: post-transfer pension contributions – From 6 April 2014, transferee employers will have the option of matching the transferor’s level of employee pension contributions into a defined contribution scheme, even if the are less than the current minimum of 6%.
- Whistleblowing – MP’s added to list of “prescribed persons” – With effect from 6 April 2014, the category of “prescribed persons” to whom a whistleblower may, under certain circumstances, make a protected disclosure will be extended to include members of the House of Commons (MPs) in England, Scotland and Wales. To date, all prescribed persons have been prescribed in respect of certain matters only (e.g. transport, and healthcare and social services). However, MPs will be prescribed persons in respect of any matter for which any other person is a “prescribed person” (i.e. across all matters).
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