The new Early Conciliation (EC) process came into force on 6 April 2014 and ACAS has launched a portal that contains information about the EC process for Claimants, Respondents and their representatives. It includes the EC form for prospective Claimants to start the process by notifying ACAS of their intention to bring a claim.
Transitional provisions cover the period between 6 April and 5 May 2014 during which EC will be available to prospective claimants when EC is optional. EC will be mandatory for claims presented on or after 6 May 2014.
Statutory Sick Pay (SSP)
From 6 April 2014, SSP increased to £87.55 per week and SMP, SPP and SAP increased to £138.18 per week.
The Percentage Threshold Scheme which enabled employers to reclaim SSP from HMRC, where the total SSP paid in a month exceeded 13% of their Class 1 NIC has been abolished.
Unlawful discrimination /preventing illegal working
The government has published a draft Code of Practice (replaces the previous 2008 guidance) to assist employers, to have "clear written procedures for the recruitment and selection of all workers, based on equal and fair treatment for all applicants" as a matter of good employment practice. It recommends that employers carry out statutory immigration checks for all prospective workers, and not just for those who are from an ethnic minority or have a foreign accent.
Hounga v Allen (née Aboyade-Cole) and another. An illegal immigrant argued that her illegal employment and lack of rights allowed her to be bullied by her employers. The Court of Appeal held that because her employment contract was tainted with illegality, she was barred from bringing a race discrimination claim. The Supreme Court has reserved its judgment.
Where an employer is found to have employed adults who are subject to immigration control but do not have the right to work in the UK the maximum penalty has been increased from £10,000 to £20,000.
Statutory discrimination questionnaires were abolished from 6 April 2014. ACAS has published practice guidance on how employers should now deal with questions regarding discrimination in the workplace.
Increase to Employment Tribunal fees (from 6 April 2014)
A number of claims including 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 are being re-categorised as "Type B" claims, which attract a higher fee (for single claimants, £250 instead of £160 issue fee, and £950 instead of £230 hearing fee). This is to remedy what the government has identified as a mistake in the original legislation which categorised certain claims incorrectly as "Type A".
Employment Tribunals now have the power to order that a losing employer pay a financial penalty in specified circumstances such as where 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. The fine will be between £500 and £5,000.
The cap on "a week's pay" for statutory redundancy payment / unfair dismissal basic award has been increased to £464. The maximum compensatory award for unfair dismissal increases to £76,574 (or 52 weeks' gross pay, if lower).
Changes to TUPE
From 6 April 2014 transferee employers will have the option to match the transferor's level of employee pension contributions into a defined contribution scheme, even if they are less than the current minimum of 6%. This is to avoid the situation where employees could be in a more favourable position than they would have been if they had not transferred.
The deadline for notification of employee liability information to the transferee is increased from 14 days to 28 days. This amendment will only apply to transfers that take place on or after 1 May 2014.
MP’s added to list of “prescribed person”
Changes to the whistleblowing regulations have added MPs to the list of "prescribed persons" to whom a whistle-blower may, under certain circumstances, make a protected disclosure from 6 April 2014.