“The coming months herald significant reforms to employment legislation including the introduction of new John Lewis-style employee shareholder contracts, changes to the rules relating to collective redundancy consultation and an update to the whistleblowing provisions.”
Introduction of ‘employee shareholder’ contracts:
Along with other proposed changes, in keeping with the commitment to review employment law and support businesses, the Government announced in the Budget that a new type of employment contract will be introduced on 1 September 2013 which will provide for employees to be given shares (free from capital gains tax) in their employer’s business in exchange for waiving certain employment rights. Under these voluntary arrangements, ‘employee shareholders’ will receive shares worth between £2,000 and £50,000 in return for giving up specified employment rights, including protection against unfair dismissal (except for automatically unfair dismissal protection); statutory redundancy pay; and making statutory requests to work flexibly.
Employee shareholders will also have to give 16 weeks’ notice to return early from maternity, adoption or additional paternity leave (instead of eight weeks).
Reduction in the collective redundancy consultation period:
The 90 day minimum consultation period where 100 or more redundancies are proposed will be reduced to 45 days from 6 April 2013. This change will limit the length of time employers have to inform and consult with employees in large-scale redundancies. However, the minimum consultation period for 20-99 proposed redundancies, which is currently 30 days, will remain the same. In addition, it has been confirmed that employees on fixed-term contracts which have reached their agreed termination point will be excluded from collective redundancy consultation obligations.
Changes to whistleblowing protection:
Currently, workers are protected from unfair dismissal and detriment under the so-called “whistleblowing legislation” if they make a ‘qualifying disclosure' disclosing information that relates to one of six types of failure: a criminal offence, a breach of legal obligation, a miscarriage of justice, a danger to the health and safety of any individual, damage to the environment or deliberate concealing of information of any of the above. In addition, the disclosure must also be a ‘protected disclosure’ in that it must be made to an Employer or an Authorised Person as well as made in good faith.
The proposed changes to the whistleblowing protection, which are expected to come into force in the summer 2013, will mean that an individual will not be able to bring a whistleblowing claim if the disclosure is ‘not in the public interest’. The good faith requirement for a protected disclosure will also be removed however, tribunals will have a new power to reduce compensation by up to 25% if the disclosure was not made in good faith.
Fee for bringing employment tribunal claims
A new charging structure for the submission of employment tribunal claims is to be introduced in the summer 2013. Under the two stage charging structure, a claimant will be required to pay an initial fee to issue a claim and a further fee if the claim proceeds to a full tribunal hearing. The level of fee will be determined based on the nature of the claim.
Family friendly benefit changes:
The right to unpaid parental leave per child increased from 13 to 18 weeks from 8 March 2013.
In addition, the standard rates of statutory maternity, paternity and adoption pay will increase from £135.45 to £136.78 per week from 7 April 2013, while the standard rate of statutory sick pay increases from £85.85 to £86.70 per week on 6 April 2013.