Employment Law Update September 2014

Employment Law Update September 2014


Government to crack down on zero hours contracts

The Government has announced that it is to crackdown on the abuse of zero hours contracts (ZHCs) by banning the use of exclusivity clauses in increasing availability of information on ZHCs to employees.

An exclusivity clause stops an individual working for another employer, even when work is not guaranteed, meaning that those on ZHCs will be able to increase their income by finding work with more than one company.

This will form part of the Small Business, Enterprise and Employment Bill.  A code of practice is to be developed and consultation launched into ways to prevent rogue employers evading the exclusivity ban.

Our Recommendations

Conduct a review of any zero hour’s contracts in place to ensure that these meet statutory requirements.

Changes to flexible working regime are now in force

Statutory provisions on flexible working changed on 30 June 2014 which means that all employees now have the right to submit requests for flexible working, provided they have been working for their employer for at least 26 weeks when they make an application.  One application can be made over a 12 month period.  Employees do not have to say why they wish to work flexibly.

Employees may apply to vary their working hours, working times or place of work, though this can only be between home and the employer’s place of business.  There is no automatic right to be able to work flexibly, just a right to request to do so. 

Employers can turn down an application as long as it is for one or more of the following 8 reasons:

  1. The burden of additional costs.
  2. The detrimental effect it would have on ability to meet customer demand.
  3. Inability to reorganise work among existing staff.
  4. Inability to recruit additional staff.
  5. The detrimental impact it would have on quality.
  6. The detrimental impact it would have on performance.
  7. Insufficiency of work during periods when the employee proposes to work.
  8. Planned structural changes.

Employers must be aware of flexible working requests that may lead to other types of claim such as indirect sex discrimination where the request is made by a mother returning from maternity leave or disability discrimination where a disabled employee makes a request as a reasonable adjustment because of their disability.

Employers must show that they have “dealt with an application in a reasonable manner” and “notified the employee of the decision on the application within the decision period”.  The decision period is three months which starts on the date that the employee made the request but this can be extended as long as both parties agree.  The 3 month decision period includes appeal if the employer declines the application.

The statutory ACAS Code of Practice on Handling in a Reasonable Manner Requests to Work Flexibly will be taken into account by tribunals when cases are considered.

Our Recommendations

Introduce a policy and procedures for handling requests to work flexibly. Doing so will ensure that you have consistent processes in place that cover statutory requirements such as a procedure for considering requests, responding in writing, providing a right of appeal. 

It will also make it easier to communicate information on the right to request in a transparent manner to all employees. 

Increase in National Minimum Wage

Revised National Minimum Wage rates are due to come into force on 1 October 2014.  The increase will be as follows:

  1. The adult rate for workers aged 21 and over will increase from £6.31 to £6.50 per hour. 
  2.  The youth development rate for 18 to 20 year old's will increase from £5.03 to £5.13 per hour.
  3. The rate for 16 and 17 year old's will increase from £3.72 to £3.79 per hour.
  4. The apprentice rate will increase from £2.68 to £2.73 per hour.
  5. The accommodation offset will increase from £4.91 to £5.08 per day. 

Our Recommendations

Ensure that the new National Minimum Wage rates are applied to all workers falling within the categories set out above.

New Health and Work Service

The Health and Work Service in England and Wales which is being established to support employees and employers in managing sickness absence, is to be delivered by Health Management Limited, a MAXIMUS company. 

Employees who have reached or are expected to reach over four weeks’ sickness absence will be provided with an occupational health assessment.  Referral will normally be through the employee’s GP.  A case manager will support each employee to ensure that their needs are identified and steps are taken to assist them in returning to work including a return to work plan.

The services will be rolled out between late 2014 and May 2015.

ACAS guidance on Dress Codes

ACAS has published new guidance on dress codes in the work place which sets out issues that employers should consider. Examples of areas covered include religious clothing, tattoos and body piercings.

Our Recommendations

Consider whether there is a need for a Dress Code within your organisation.  If you feel that there is, then before putting a Code in place, consult the new ACAS guidance or seek professional advice to ensure that any Code does not place unnecessary or discriminatory requirements on employees and is implemented using best practice.

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