This article identifies the key UK employment law developments in 2014.
TUPE changes (31 January 2014)
Regulations amending the Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) Regulations 2006 (TUPE) will come into force on 31 January 2014. The main changes are as follows:
- For there to be a service provision change, the activities pre- and post- transfer must be “fundamentally or essentially the same” as those carried on before it.
- Changes in the location of the workforce post-transfer will count as an ETO reason thereby preventing genuine place of work redundancies from being automatically unfair.
- The transferor will have to provide employee liability information 28 days before the transfer, rather than 14 days (applicable from 1 May 2014).
- Changes to employment terms and dismissals will only be caught be TUPE if the “transfer itself” is the “reason” for the change/dismissal. This is narrower than the current “reasons connected with the transfer” and may make it easier to amend terms and conditions post TUPE transfer.
- Consultation that begins before the transfer can count towards complying with the collective redundancy rules, provided that the transferor and transferee can agree and the transferee has carried out meaningful consultation.
Judicial review of tribunal fees regime (Judgment expected early 2014)
Two judicial reviews of the new employment tribunal fees regime (first introduced by the government in July 2013) are currently underway. The government has given an undertaking that if the fees are found to be unlawful, all those taken so far will be repaid with interest.
Introduction of the Small and Micro Business Assessment (31 March 2014)
A freeze exempting small businesses with fewer than 10 employees from onerous new regulations will be extended to those with up to 50. The aim is to spare smaller businesses from future regulations which may create disproportionate and unnecessary burdens and impede their growth.
Employment allowance boost (1 April 2014)
From April 2014, the National Insurance Contributions Bill will give businesses and charities a £2000 tax cut from their National Insurance bill.
Window for automatic enrolment extended (1 April 2014)
The Automatic Enrolment (Miscellaneous Amendments) Regulations 2013 extends the window available to employers for auto-enrolling eligible employees into a qualifying pension scheme from one month to six weeks.
Increases in maternity, paternity, adoption and sick pay (6 April 2014)
Statutory maternity pay, ordinary and additional statutory paternity pay and statutory adoption pay increases from £136.78 per week to £138.18 per week. Statutory sick pay increases from £86.70 per week to £87.55 per week.
Updated tax rates and thresholds (6 April 2014)
The basic rate limit for income tax will increase from £32,010 to £31,865, and the National Insurance Contributions threshold will increase from £109 per week to £111 per week.
Early Conciliation (6 April 2014)
From 6 April 2014, the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act 2013 introduces a requirement for potential claimants to lodge details of their proposed employment tribunal claim with Acas in the first instance. Acas will then offer the parties the opportunity to engage in conciliation with a conciliation officer for a period of one month. If this is unsuccessful or refused by either party within the set period, the claimant can proceed to lodge a tribunal claim.
Financial penalties for employers (6 April 2014)
Discretionary penalties for employers who lose tribunal claims are coming into force. Tribunals will have the power to impose a financial penalty of 50% of any monetary award, with a maximum cap of £5,000. The amount of the penalty will be reduced by 50% if it is paid within 21 days. The tribunal is likely to exercise this right only in cases with aggravating features.
Abolishing discrimination questionnaires (6 April 2014)
Currently an employee or job applicant who thinks they may have been discriminated against can submit questions to their employer to help determine whether they have a claim. This procedure will be abolished after the 6 April this year – welcome news for employers.
Flexible Working (6 April 2014)
New regulations will extend flexible working rights to all employees with 26 weeks’ service, rather than just those employees who qualify as parents or carers. Employers will also no longer be required to follow the statutory procedure regarding flexible working requests, and must instead consider all requests reasonably.
Caste discrimination (October 2014)
The Equality Act 2010 is due to be amended to include ‘caste’ in the definition of ‘race’, thereby making caste discrimination unlawful.
Introduction of equal pay audits (October 2014)
Employment tribunals will be granted the power to order equal pay audits be required to do so when finding employers guilty of gender pay discrimination in relation to both contractual and non-contractual matters.
By Emily Minett