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As normal in the Employment world, the month of April is the time for employers to check or amend their Policies and Procedures in relation to the imminent changes in Employment Legislation.

My newsletter this month will inform you of these changes and offer solutions for you to anticipate or alleviate any issues you may encounter.

1. Early Conciliation

What Employment Law states: From April 2014, before an employee can lodge a claim to the tribunal, they will need to notify Acas first. If both parties cannot resolve their issue informally through a conciliator then the claimant can proceed to lodge a tribunal claim.

What are the benefits of this change?

  • Early conciliation gives both parties the chance to resolve their dispute using the services of an Acas Conciliator.  
  • Acas is an independent, third party mediator and therefore acts impartially to resolve any issues between an employer and employee.
early conciliation

 What cases can early conciliation help resolve?

  • Redundancy payment disputes 
  • Unfair dismissal claims 
  • Rights to time off 
  • Equal Pay  

Research shows that the average cost of resolving a case through early conciliation is £475. This is relatively small compared to the average cost to an employer for a tribunal claim which stands at £4000. 

 

2. The Right to Request Flexible Working

What Employment Law states: The Government intends to extend the right to request flexible working to all employees, not just those who are parents or carers from 30 June 2014.  Employees will still need 26 weeks’ continuous service in order to be eligible and there will be a duty on employers to deal with requests reasonably (although they will not have to follow a statutory procedure).  Eligible employees will only be able to make one request in any 12-month period and it will still be a permanent, contractual change.

Flexible working policies 

What are the benefits of this change?

  • It provides employees with a better work-life balance and improved family life
  • It is expected that this will reduce levels of sickness absence.
  • More job satisfaction for employees resulting in higher rates of staff retention
  • Increased customer satisfaction as a result of the above

This will affect most businesses as currently the right to request flexible working is only offered to those who have children under the age of 17

NB: Be careful with this change as clearly this opens up opportunities for flexible working for all employees.  Ensure you have the right procedures in place to be able to deal with these requests, when, and they will, arise. 

3. New Approach to Managing Sickness Absence

 What Employment Law states: A Health and Work Assessment is to be introduced which offers free occupational health assistance for employees, employers and GPs.

Sickness absence costs businesses millions of pounds, with absences over four weeks accounting for 20% of sick days in the UK.  Furthermore, small businesses are often left at a disadvantage when dealing with long term sickness as they do not have the same access to occupational health services. (Currently, only 10% of employees in small firms have access to this.)

Therefore the government is launching later this year, a new service to help businesses get employees back into work. This will provide occupational health advice and support for employees, employers and GPs to help people with a health condition stay in, or return, to work.

managing staff sickness

There are two main elements to the new service:

  • Assessment: once the employee has reached, or is expected to reach, four weeks of sickness absence, they will normally be referred by their GP for an assessment by an Occupational Health Professional who will look at all the issues preventing the employee from returning to work
  • Advice: employers, employees and GPs will be able to access advice via a phone line and website.

What are the benefits of this change?

  • This service will make occupational health advice more readily available to employees and employers.
  • This scheme could save employers up to £160 million a year in statutory sick pay and increase economic output by up to £900 million a year.
  • This scheme will encourage GPs to look at what activities a person may be able to do within the workplace rather than simply state they are unfit to work.

A ‘win win’ all round IF it can be implemented correctly.

4. Protected ‘Off the Record’ Conversations

What Employment Law states: Employment Legislation allows employers to enter into ‘off the record’ conversations with a view to agreeing the termination of an employee’s contract. These conversations will not be permitted to be referred to in a court or in an employment tribunal.

What are the benefits of these protected conversations?

protected conversations hr law
  • Employers can feel more comfortable about liaising with employees about their performance 
  • Employers can feel safe in the knowledge that these conversations cannot be referred to in any future litigation  
  • Being able to address an employee’s performance will boost the efficiency of your workforce.  
  • This encourages both employers and employees to talk openly and honestly 

NB: Clearly this can be a recipe for disaster if not handled correctly. If any employer is going to enter into any ‘off the record’ discussions then they MUST prepare well in advance about how they are going to approach the conversation. It is crucial to gain advice from a HR professional who will advise them on the best approach to conduct the conversation to obtain their preferred outcome and on how to prepare for it.

5. Flexible Parental Leave

What Employment Law states: The Children and Families Act 2014 will implement a new system of shared parental leave and pay. Once this is introduced, 5 April 2015, additional paternity leave and pay will be abolished.

This will enable parents to share the care of their child during the first year after the birth.

Mothers can chose to keep their entitlement of 52 weeks maternity leave and 39 weeks statutory maternity pay. Alternatively, after the first two weeks of the birth, the mother can chose to share the remaining 50 weeks of her maternity leave and 37 weeks maternity pay with the father as flexible parental leave.

flexible parental leave

What are the benefits of this change?

  • It will make it easier for women to share childcare responsibilities
  • This could potentially encourage a cultural change and shift perceptions about women’s relationship to the workplace and men’s to childcare!
  • The father will also have the right to unpaid time off to attend up to two ante-natal classes.

Although there are many benefits to this change, there will be more pressure on the employer to track their employee’s maternity or paternity leave and pay them accordingly.

NB: Ensure you obtain the right advice so you can minimise the effect this change may have on your business.

How can Julie Page HR help?

Whilst these Employment changes can bring in a number of benefits to your Company it is important to consult and inform employees before you introduce or change any of your policies and procedures.

Julie Page HR can assist by working with you and your business to plan the implementation of any such policies. Furthermore, Julie can provide essential employment law advice and realistically guide your business through any changes.

Julie can help by:

  • Advising further on the forthcoming legislation and the impact it may have on your business
  • Offering full support to employees and employers through any early conciliation and tribunal claims
  • Working with employers to understand their business and drafting action plans for the implementation of Employment Policies.
  • Providing detailed advice on Paternity and Maternity leave and pay
  • Offering a comprehensive overview of all Employment Policies that affect Your Business.

To find out more about the contents of this Newsletter or ways in which Julie can work with you for your HR and staffing requirements, please contact her on 07776 135350 or through the website for an initial discussion and free consultation.

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