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You cannot create employees without first creating employers

Jack Kemp, politician

Employment law is ever changing. This article considers some recent key changes and looks ahead to some proposed ones.

  • Flexible working

    Employees are now entitled to make a flexible working request (known as a ‘statutory application’) from the first day of their employment. Under the ‘old law’ they had to have a minimum of 26 weeks service.
    Employees can now make up to 2 requests in any 12-month period.
    Flexible working includes part time, term time, flexitime as well as the place of work.
    An employer must properly consider the request and have a good business reason for turning it down.
    A refusal can be challenged at an Employment Tribunal and may, depending on the circumstances, constitute unlawful discrimination.

    People

  • Compensation limits

    From 6 April 2024, the maximum compensatory award for an unfair dismissal claim has been increased from £105,707 to £115,115, or a year’s pay, whichever is the lower.

    A compensatory award is part of an award for unfair dismissal. The other part is known as a basic award and is calculated in the same way as a statutory redundancy payment, based on an employee’s age, length of service and gross weekly salary.

    The maximum gross weekly salary for calculating a redundancy payment and a basic award has increased from £643 to £700 per week. There have also been increases in the ‘Vento guidelines’ for assessing compensation for discrimination claims.

    The guidelines were introduced by the Court of Appeal following the case of Vento v Chief Constable of West Yorkshire Police 2023 and provide guidance on what Employment Tribunals should consider when awarding compensation.

    The guidelines reflect the seriousness of the discrimination and range from a lower band (£1,200 minimum) to a higher band (£58,700). Note, however, that these are purely guidelines. Whilst it is highly unlikely that an Employment Tribunal would award less than the lower minimum, it is possible, where the discrimination is very serious, for it to award more than the suggested higher band.

  • Carers leave

    This is new and enables an employee to take 1 week’s unpaid leave in any 12-month period to care for a dependent. The right applies from the first day of employment.

  • Unfair dismissal/redundancy

    Changes to the law have been made giving enhanced protection to pregnant women and new parents, making it more difficult to make them redundant.

  • Crystal ball gazing

    No, not a new law, but, given the upcoming general election, let’s take a quick look at what the Labour Party are proposing.
    The Labour Party have published a paper – ‘A New Deal for Working People’, which proposes fundamental changes to key aspects of employment law. The below is a summary only.

  • Employment status

    An individual’s employment status – whether employed, worker or self-employed is critical since it determines their employment protection rights. Employees have the most statutory protection, workers less and self-employed contractors have only contractual protection.

    The proposal is to create a single “worker” status. All those who fall within the definition will acquire a raft of statutory employment protection rights. Those who do not – the genuinely self-employed, will have no such statutory protection. This is certain to result in an increase in those who have employment protection rights.

  • Unfair dismissal

    Currently, to be protected from unfair dismissal, an employee must have 2 years continuous service with their employer (actually, 1 week short of 2 years as an employee can add on their statutory notice of 1 week to take them over the 2 years). There are some exceptions to this ‘2-year rule’ with certain, specified, dismissals being deemed automatically unfair, regardless of length of service.

    The proposal is radical – to end the current qualifying periods for certain “basic rights”, including unfair dismissal. This will create a ‘Day 1’ right to protection from unfair dismissal.

  • Full compensation

    Combined with a change in qualifying periods of employment (above), the proposal is to remove the current cap on compensation for unfair dismissal. This would entitle an employee to recover their full financial loss.

  • Zero hours contracts

    Contracts which do not have a minimum number of guaranteed hours will be unlawful. Further, it is proposed that an individual working regular hours for a minimum of 12 weeks will have the right to be provided with a regular contract reflecting those hours.

  • Flexible working

    The proposal is to further extend the right to request flexible working, with, it is anticipated, a ‘clamp down’ on the reasons why an employer may refuse a request.

  • Other proposals

    These include establishing trade union pay bargaining agreements, changes to trade union law, and measures intended to close gender, ethnicity and disability pay gaps.

If you would like to discuss any of the above matters further, please feel free to get in touch

Jonathan Waters My Inhouse Lawyer
Written Jonathan Waters
Principal at My Inhouse Lawyer

One of our values (Growth) is, in many ways, all about cultivating a growth mindset. We are passionate about learning, improving and evolving. We learn from each other, use the best know-how tools in the market and constantly look for ways to simplify. Lawskool is our way of sharing with you. It isn’t intended to be legal advice, rather to enlighten you to make smart business decisions day to day with the benefit of some of our insight. We hope you enjoy the experience. There are some really good ideas and tips coming from some of the best inhouse lawyers. Easy to read and practical. If there’s something you’d like us to write about or some feedback you wish to share, feel free to drop us a note. Equally, if it’s legal advice you’re after, then just give us a call on 0207 939 3959.

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