Posted on Jan 08, 2015 in Employment by Debbie Fellows
As we begin 2015 the media is full of their annual retrospectives and crystal ball gazing for the year ahead, and employment lawyers are no different. So what stands out for you in 2014 and what are you hoping for in the New Year?
This was the year when holiday pay became the hottest topic. We discovered through two cases (Lock v British Gas and Fulton v Bear Scotland etc) that the way holiday pay has been calculated for many years was, in fact, wrong. Cue claims going back to 1998? In fact, no! While the future will be very different when it comes to working out how much holiday pay many employees get, the risk of claims stretching back for years has (at the moment) been heavily curtailed. There are already thousands of claims submitted and so the cost to employers may be significant albeit not as cataclysmic as first feared.
So where do we stand? The law remains unpleasantly complicated and 2015 is guaranteed to bring further developments. At the moment the key points are that if an employee received commission or non-guaranteed overtime payments, then the way their holiday pay is calculated needs to be reconsidered. If the worker only does voluntary overtime, then this does not affect the calculation. For now, anyway.
We are expecting some further clarifications in 2015 including on the practicalities of how some of the calculations, particularly in relation to commission, are to be made. But it seems unlikely that the overall position will remain stable for long. The current government has already promised legislation to further limit the effect of recent judgements.
Have we seen the end of maternity leave as we know it? In one of the biggest moves in family friendly rights in a generation, "maternity leave" will be replaced with "shared parental leave" for parents of children born or placed for adoption on or after 5 April 2015 where parents can share a 12 month leave entitlement to best fit in with their needs and wishes. While this can be seen as a welcome social advance, the logistical complications for employers having to implement the new system are likely to be significant.
More things to look forward to...
For now, the list of big cases expected to be decided in the courts in 2015 is relatively short but could have major effects. The law on collective consultation (where there are mass redundancies) is likely to be in headlines often with several decisions due clarifying the law.
Does the ending of 20 or more fixed term contracts trigger the duty to collectively consult? If a business has job losses at different locations, can the number of redundancies looked at cumulatively across the business mean the additional legal obligations apply? We hopefully will get the answers in the coming months.
The effect of auto-enrolment upon employers who will have to provide access to a contributory pension scheme for their employees is likely to be especially felt this year. From June 2015, the staging dates for employers with fewer than 50 employees start to occur. This means the law will start to affect more and more SMEs as the months pass. The message here is don't leave it too late to find an appropriate scheme, given the number of SME's who will be doing the same!
The UK government's "Fit For Work" Assessment Programme is now live but may become mandatory in May 2015. Remember this was the scheme that was supposed to be in place early in 2014 but all went quiet on it for a while! This means employers can seek a free medical assessment of an employee who has been absent for more than 4 weeks. The majority of assessments will be made by means of a telephone call to the employee by a professionally qualified clinician. There are still some kinks to be worked out in the proposed system and how useful the reports produced will be (particularly if there is no examination) is still to be seen.
The country will decide...
After 5 years of Coalition government, the UK will go to the polls on 7 May 2015. The outcome of the election is far from certain and the various parties have radically differing manifestos. With the likely fragmentation of votes from the three major UK parties, the proposals from some of the smaller parties could be crucial if another coalition government is required. Will we see tighter strike laws? The abolition of Employment Tribunal fees? A crack down on zero hour contracts? Additional paternity leave rights? Or even the UK leaving the EU with the corresponding repealing of European law derived rights?
2015 promises to be another busy year for employers. As always, if you need help steering through the HR minefield, please contact any member of our Employment Law team who will be delighted to help.
If you have queries about employment law matters please contact Debbie Fellows on the contact details below.