Newsflash: Looking ahead to 2014

looking-ahead-2-250Happy New Year and welcome to 2014 – a busy year for HR/employment law changes.  To keep you up to speed with these we round-up the most significant below.

January

  • Pensions auto-enrolment:  employers with 350-499 employees are expected to offer a qualifying pension scheme to their staff from the start of 2014.
  • TUPE reform:  changes to the TUPE Regulations are expected to come into effect on 31 January. For more detail see our November Newsletter, Government reforms (1): TUPE changes.

April

  • National Insurance Contributions (NICs): an employment allowance will be introduced entitling every business and charity to a £2,000 reduction in employer NICs bills each year.
  • Statutory payments:  The following increases will take effect:
    • standard weekly rate of statutory maternity/adoption/paternity pay will increase to £138.18 and the earnings threshold will increase to £111; and
    • standard rate of statutory sick pay will increase to £87.55 and the earnings threshold will increase to £111 per week.

6 April

  • ACAS early conciliation:   Claimants will have to send details of their dispute to ACAS, who will attempt conciliation and settlement, before the Claimant can bring a Tribunal claim. For more detail see our July Newsletter Government reforms: ACAS early conciliation.
  • Flexible working:  this right will be extended to all employees with 26 weeks’ service.  ACAS are producing a new Code of Practice and non-statutory guidance for employers.
  • Discrimination:  the statutory discrimination questionnaire will be replaced with a new informal process and new ACAS guidance.
  • Financial penalties: Tribunals will be able to impose financial penalties on employers (capped at £5,000) who lose at Tribunal. These penalties will be in addition to any compensation payable, although Tribunals will only be able to use this new power where the employer’s behaviour in committing the breach of the employee’s rights has one or more ‘aggravating features’ (e.g. negligence or malice).
  • Statutory Sick Pay:  The Government intends to abolish the SSP record-keeping obligations and allow employers to keep records in a flexible manner more suited to their organisation.

October

  • National Minimum Wage: NMW rates may increase from 1 October – depending on the recommendations of the Low Pay Commission and on economic conditions.

Other expected changes 2014

  • Revised ACAS code of practice: ACAS is currently consulting on revisions to its Code to bring it into line with recent case law on the right to be accompanied. No set date yet but likely to be early in 2014. For more detail see our December Newsletter ACAS code consultation:  Disciplinary & grievance procedures.
  • Independent Assessment Service: this new service, expected to be up and running in the second half of 2014, will independently assess employees’ fitness for work after four weeks’ of absence and encourage earlier return to work/rehabilitation.
  • Health and work assessment and advisory service:  The Government intends to introduce this service from Spring 2014 which will provide:
    • a state-funded assessment by occupational health professionals for employees who are off sick for four weeks or more; and
    • case management for employees with complex needs to facilitate their return to work.
  • Equal pay audits: Tribunals will be able to order employers to carry out an equal pay audit if they are found to have breached equal pay laws, with fines for those employers who fail to comply.

We will update you in more detail about these changes as and when they come in. Keep an eye out in our Newsletters…