September 5, 2013

Employment News Update

  • Zero hours contracts have been in the news recently and Vince Cable, the business secretary, has ordered a review of these. The concern appears to be the lack of certainty for the individuals on zero hours contracts as to the amount of work they can be expected to undertake with no guarantee of any at all. There has been an increase in zero hours contracts over the last few years and the business secretary is concerned that employees are treated fairly, albeit still expressing a desire to retain some flexibility in the work force.
  • In the Government’s White Paper entitled “Reserves in the Future Force 2020: Valuable and Valued”, it has announced plans for the future of the UK’s reserve armed forces. One of the measures proposed is to remove the qualifying period for army reservists to claim unfair dismissal and increase the number of training days required of reservists. While it is a criminal offence to dismiss reservists solely or mainly because of their duties as reservists, they still have to attain the 2 year qualifying period to bring a claim for unfair dismissal. This can be difficult because periods of mobilisation do not count towards this qualifying period. The intention is to introduce this via primary legislation and once it is introduced, it will mean that employers cannot dismiss someone because of their reservist activities however short a period of time they have been employed.
  • On the issue of the challenge via judicial review to the introduction of Tribunal fees, the Scottish Court of Session refused to grant an interim interdict (as it is known in Scotland) on the basis that the Lord Chancellor has given an undertaking that any Tribunal fees paid after their introduction will be repaid if, at a full hearing, the Court decides the fees regime is unlawful. In the English Court, the judicial review case has been expedited to a full hearing.
  • On the 29th July the following important developments came into force (there are a lot of others but these are particularly important ones) :-
    • Confidential pre-termination negotiations; this is a new complex statutory framework which will allow certain discussions to be kept confidential from the Tribunal in most unfair dismissal cases.
    • The renaming of Compromise Agreements to Settlement Agreements.
    • Amendments to the 1993 EAT rules in the Employment Appeal Tribunal (amendment) rules 2013 including the following:
      • Removing the right to submit a fresh notice of appeal within 28 days of the original one being rejected by an EAT Judge on the grounds that it does not have reasonable prospects of success;
      • ending the automatic entitlement to an oral hearing after the sift stage if the Appellant wishes to challenge the assessment of an EAT Judge that the notice of appeal discloses no reasonable grounds for bringing it. So if an EAT Judge considers an appeal its totally without merit he can order that a party is not entitled to have the matter heard before a Judge.

These amendments are quite concerning given the number of appeals which are initially rejected and subsequently allowed through on an oral hearing.

  • From 1st October 2013 the national minimum wage is increasing as follows:-
    • Workers aged 21 and over – increased to £6.31 per hour
    • Rate for workers aged 18 to 20 inclusive – increases to £5.03 per hour
    • Rate for workers aged 16 and 17 – increases to £3.72 per hour
    • Apprentices aged below 19 or in the first 12 months of apprenticeship – increases to £2,68 per hour

The following are exempt from the National Minimum Wage Regulations:-

    • The genuinely self-employed
    • Genuine volunteers
    • Students doing work as part of their undergraduate or post graduate course
    • Certain training schemes

This legal update is provided for general information purposes only and should not be applied to specific circumstances without prior consultation with us.

For further details on any of the issues covered in this update please contact Gemma Ospedale, Partner in Employment on 020 7583 2222.

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