2013 saw a raft of changes to UK employment law and there are likely to be more in 2014. In this Employment Alert, we recap some of the key changes that happened in 2013 and look ahead at what to expect in 2014.

Changes In 2013

The table below sets out the most significant changes that took place in 2013, with links to our previous Employment Alerts, which give more detailed information.

Click here to view the table.

Things to Come in 2014

Changes to UK employment law that we expect to see in 2014 include the following:

  • Collective redundancies: The Secretary of State has appealed the decision by the Employment Appeal Tribunal to disregard the word “at one establishment” for the purposes of applying the obligation to collectively consult about mass redundancies. The case was initially due to be heard this month, but we understand that it has been referred to the Court of Justice of the European Union, which means that a decision is unlikely until Autumn 2014 at the earliest.
  • TUPE on the move: With effect from 31 January 2014, various changes will be made to TUPE. Importantly, buyers of a business will be able to relocate transferring staff without fear of liability for automatically unfair dismissal and will be allowed to carry out collective redundancy consultation with transferring staff before the transfer takes place.
  • Mandatory pre-claim conciliation and financial penalties for employers: From 6 April 2014, claimants will not be able to make a tribunal claim unless they have first tried to resolve the dispute with the help of an Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS) advisor. Employers who lose at tribunal will potentially face a fine of between £100 and £5,000 where the tribunal considers there to be “aggravating factors”.
  • Repeal of the discrimination questionnaire procedure: Statutory discrimination questionnaires will be repealed with effect from 6 April 2014, in a welcome move for employers. They will be replaced by ACAS guidance, which tribunals will still take into account.
  • Extension of the right to request flexible working: The right to request flexible working will be extended to all employees with 26 weeks’ continuous service. The statutory request procedure will be abolished and instead employees will be required to use the normal HR channels to make a request. The change had been expected to be brought in from 6 April 2014, although the Government has now confirmed that it will not do so until later in the year.
  • Mandatory equal pay audits for employers who commit equal pay breaches: Tribunals will have the power to force employers who lose equal pay claims or sex discrimination claims in relation to pay to undergo a mandatory equal pay audit. What such an audit will entail is currently not clear, however these provisions are expected to come into force in October 2014.
  • Health and Work Assessment and Advisory Service: The government has announced that it will establish a new body — the Health and Work Assessment and Advisory Service — to assist employees on long term sickness get back to work. Part of the proposals include the provision of state-funded assessment by occupational health professionals for employees after four weeks on sick leave, and case-management for the minority of employees with complex needs who require on-going support to enable their return to work. The new body is expected to come into being in Spring 2014.
  • Consultation on zero hours contracts: The government is currently consulting on the use of zero hours contracts following widespread media criticism of the practice during 2013. The consultation will run until 13 March 2014, following which the government will consider changes to the law.

For more information on any of these changes, or to discuss how they apply to your business, please contact Katie Clark or your usual McDermott lawyer.