April showers down new employment regime…
April and October traditionally herald changes to the legislative regime for employment law. This year is no different, but the April changes are significant.
There are fairly straightforward changes to the following regulations:
- Statutory holiday - The statutory entitlement to paid holiday increases from 24 days to 28 days.
- Statutory maternity, paternity and adoption pay - The standard rate of statutory maternity pay, statutory paternity pay and statutory adoption pay increases from £117.18 to £123.06 per week.
- Statutory sick pay - Statutory sick pay increases from £75.40 to £79.15 per week.
- Flexible working - The right to request flexible working is extended to parents of children under the age of 17.
The most significant change relates to the repeal of the statutory dispute resolution procedures and the implementation of a revised ACAS code of practice, with which employers and employees will be expected to comply in disciplinary and grievance situations. The revised code will be accompanied by a revised ACAS guide.
The code is short (10 pages) and contains the core principles of the new regime. Employment tribunals are required to take it into account when considering whether or not employers have acted reasonably in dismissing an employee. Unreasonable failure by either party to follow the principles set out in the code could result in the tribunal increasing or decreasing the compensatory award by up to 25 percent, depending on which party is at fault. The code does not apply to dismissals on the grounds of redundancy or the non-renewal of a fixed-term contract.
The ACAS guide gives employers good practical advice for dealing with discipline and grievances in the workplace. Tribunals are not required to follow the ACAS guide when considering whether or not an employer has acted reasonably.
The principles contained in both documents will not be new to employers, and indeed many employers will continue to adopt the policies developed for the old statutory dispute resolution procedures. The code encourages informal resolution of disputes (although does not go as far as the Gibbon's review suggestion to incorporate mediation into workplace dispute resolution). Employers are encouraged to act fairly and consistently without delay. The ACAS provides guidance to employers relating to how to deal with disciplinary issues and to employees with respect to filing grievances.
HR professionals should review the code and the guidance to ensure their policies and procedures meet the obligations at a minimum. For ease, these provisions are linked here:
The Code is at: http://www.acas.org.uk/index.aspx?articleid=2174
and the guide is at: http://www.acas.org.uk/index.aspx?articleid=2179
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