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Employment law round up – July 2014

It’s that time of year when the Government crosses the t’s and dots the i’s in terms of employment law matters, before the go off for their socks-in-sandals, ‘MPs in Marbs’ extravaganza.  So what changes do we know about, what rulings will impact in the future and what do employers need to take note of?

  • HRMC has updated guidance on IR35. This applies when people work for a client through an intermediary such as a limited company or partnership. An example of this would be hiring a freelancer to work on a contract or project, through a larger agency. It is important in situations where the freelancer might be regarded as your employee if there were not an intermediary. You can download more information about this here.
  • Equal pay audit draft regulations published for 1st October 2014 implementation.The Government’s response is now ‘out’ following last year’s consultation on the proposal to require tribunals to order equal pay audits when an employer has lost an equal pay case. The draft regulations (which will take effect from 1st October 2014 – subject to the usual parliamentary processes) will apply to equal pay claims on or after that date. This can be avoided if the employer has already carried out a qualifying audit within the preceding three years, if the way of avoiding an equal pay breach is clear without an audit, there is no reason to think there will be other breaches or if the disadvantages of doing an audit outweigh the benefits.
  • Flexible working requests now open to all. We recently wrote about the changes to the flexible working qualification requirements. As of Monday 30 June 2014 the right to request flexible working has been extended to all employees with at least 26 weeks’ continuous service.
  • Zero hours – exclusivity clauses banned. We also wrote recently about changes to the way zero hours contracts work. The changes that came out at the end of June 2014 stated that any provision of a zero hours contract, prohibiting a worker from working under another contract, or prohibits them from doing so without the employer’s consent, is unenforceable.  This change means that workers have total freedom to seek work with more than one employer.
  • A light touch for whistleblowing reforms. Our recent article about the recent consultation on whistleblowing introduced a number of recommended changes in terms of guidance and reporting, as well as a small number of changes concerning protected workers and prescribed persons.
  • Financial penalties for unpaid employment tribunal awards or Acas-conciliated settlements have been capped at £5,000.
  • The maximum £20,000 penalty for breach of the national minimum wage will apply in respect of each underpaid worker separately.
  • Disability – the scope of your duty to make reasonable adjustments. InHainsworth v Ministry of Defence, The Court of Appeal has ruled that UK or EU employers do not have a duty to make reasonable adjustments for an employee’s need to care for a disabled dependent. The duty is owed only to disabled employees, not employees who are associated with someone with a disability.
  • Resignation without notice. The Employment Appeal Tribunal has ruled that it is reasonable and enforceable to include, in a contract, a clause deducting a payment (equal to the salary for the period of notice not worked), when a highly skilled employee resigned. This was deemed to be genuine compensation for the losses that would be incurred in replacing the employee at short notice.
  • Statutory holiday pay in lieu on death of an employee. In a recent case the European Court of Justice has ruled that, if a worker dies after a period of sickness (thereby resulting in their not being able to take their accrued holiday) payment in lieu must be paid to the deceased worker’s estate.

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