Employment law updates: More changes?
We have been following recent tribunals that will be impacting on how employee status and benefits are likely to change.
There are changes to tribunal fees and a closer focus on wider issues such as what employees wear to work.
The Ministry of Justice has published its review into the Employment Tribunal fee system. The review concludes that the regime has broadly achieved its aims and that there will be no major changes to the level of fees or how they are structured. There are a very few number of specific claims which will now be exempt from fees and the Government plans to further review and reform the process for claimants who cannot afford to pay fees.
The fee for issuing standard claims such as for unpaid wages is £160 and for unfair dismissal and discrimination (the most common type of Tribunal claim) is £250. There are further hearing fees of between £230 and £950 for those claims which proceed to Tribunal. This will not change.
However, the review highlights some concerns about the ability of those on low incomes to have access to justice, and highlights concerns that these employees are being deterred from bringing meritorious claims. To address this, the Government proposes to raise the threshold for fee remission to broadly the level of a single person working full time on the National Living Wage. This means that more people will be exempt entirely from fees, and others will contribute less towards the fee. We can therefore expect more Tribunal claims from those on low incomes.
Recent news updates on tribunals have covered expected implications. These can be seen here.
And looking ahead to 2017:
The sensitive issue of what employees wear to work will continue this year following the case of a receptionist, Nicola Thorpe. Nicola complained that she had been sent home from work for refusing to wear high heels. A review by the Petitions Committee and Women and Equalities Committee has concluded that there is a widespread misunderstanding by employers of the law. It particularly believes that there are inappropriate dress codes in sectors such as retail, hospitality, tourism, corporate services and in employment agencies. Further guidance will follow regarding the more controversial dress code requirements (including high heels, make up, hair, hosiery, skirt length and low-fronted or unbuttoned tops) and there are likely to be tougher penalties for employers acting unreasonably.
Data Protection laws are likely to be considerably strengthened as a result of Brexit and will require employers to provide more specific information to employees about the information they hold, and what they do with it. Individuals are also likely to have more rights in relation to their personal data. Changes to HR policies and processes may be required to safeguard employee data and demonstrate compliance with the new rules.
Gender Pay Gap Reporting which comes into effect for those companies employing over 250 staff, may bring more claims for Equal Pay. Such as that of Brierley v ASDA Stores, even for smaller companies as awareness about equal pay is raised.
And finally some useful information about disciplinary hearings for misconduct:
A reminder that you don’t have to prove misconduct “beyond all reasonable doubt” – this test is only applied in criminal cases. That said, in order for a disciplinary sanction to be just and fair, you must have a genuine and reasonable belief that an employee committed an act of misconduct and have evidence to support this.
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