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What's New for 2013

ARTICLE ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED MARCH 2013

We are well aware Employment Law and Practices are constantly changing. As we move into 2013 I feel it was useful to look at what is on the horizon and might affect your business in the next 12 months. The Government have pledged to reduce the amount of red tape and limits on small businesses and some of the changes go a little way to meeting this objective.

Minimum Wage

The minimum wage for those aged under 21 was frozen for 2012/2013, there might be more surprises this year. There are ongoing debates relating to many aspects of the minimum wage including the age ranges, possible regional differences, and generally simplifying the rules. The fact that older apprentices cost significantly more after 12 months has also been the subject of debate.

Protected Conversations

The Government are proposing that employers will be able to have “protected discussions” with employees and that the employee will not be able to use these at any later Tribunal.

We will all have experienced difficult or problematic employees; the disciplinary process can be a long and painful process.

The protected conversation would allow employers to discuss an employee “leaving” and a financial package being agreed.

Currently if this topic is raised the individual can raise the offer as part of a tribunal claim as evidence the employer was trying to “get them out”. Currently employers can already agree with employees that they sign a “compromise agreement” whereby for a sum of money they agree to waive their rights to go to an Employment Tribunal and make a claim against the business. If protected conversations are approved then these will become much more commonplace.

Employment Tribunals

From the summer of 2013 employees wishing to take their case to an Employment Tribunal will have to pay a fee. The Government announced 2 levels of fee

  • For level 1 claims, the issue fee is £160 and the hearing fee is £230.
  • For level 2 claims, the issue fee is £250 and the hearing fee is £950.

Level 2 claims are likely to be the more complex and time consuming ones.

You can see how the prospect of spending up to £1200 to take a case through the Tribunal system might very well put some people off; but there will be exemptions in cases of hardship and the fee is refundable if the applicant wins their case.

However, there is a cloud on the horizon, the maximum compensatory award for unfair dismissal rise from £72,300 to £74,200 on the 1st February.

There is also consultation regarding a proposal that claimants in Tribunal claims will have to go to ACAS and there would be a one month pre-claim conciliation period where ACAS will try to negotiate settlement of the claim.

Redundancy

Consistent with the Governments wish to reduce what is seen as red tape there is a proposal to reduce the time an employer has to consult with staff before a redundancy. Currently where 100 staff are affected it is a minimum of 90 days for the consultation, this is going to be reduced to 45 days.

Flexible parental leave introduced

Less welcome might be the proposed changes to maternity and paternity leave allowing parents more flexibility as to when they take time off. It is expected that the changes will allow both parents to take leave at the same time, instead of the mother having to have returned to work before the father can take additional paternity leave; and, to allow parents to take time off in blocks, rather than all in one go. However nothing is going to change before 2015. Fathers can already take the period of additional maternity leave off instead of the mother if she returns to work, but, reportedly, take up of this is low.

Harassment

Currently, employers are required to take reasonable steps to prevent harassment of their employees by third parties, such as customers or suppliers. This is right and proper, but the Government recognise this can be "unworkable" as employers have no direct control over how third parties act. It has been confirmed that the Equality Act will be amended to remove the provisions.

Maternity/Sick Pay

In the budget the Government announced they would increase maternity (SMP) and sick pay (SSP) by 1%.Therefore from the 6th April the SMP rate should increase by £1.33 to £136.78. The statutory sick pay rate will increase at the same time from £85.85 to £86.70, with the weekly earnings threshold also rising from £107 to £109.

Employee Shareholders

Perhaps most radically of all is the proposed “Employee Shareholder.”

The suggestion is that an employee can become an “employee shareholder” (instead of just an “employee”), and be issued a minimum of £2,000 worth of shares .

They would then lose the following key rights

  • Right to make a flexible working request
  • Most rights to claim unfair dismissed
  • Right to redundancy pay

The Government is consulting on the proposal but it is easy to see how this might be of interest to salon owners and their most senior and skilled staff



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