2013 was a year of considerable upheaval in employment law and we are all still waiting to see what the impact of some changes such as the introduction of fees in the Employment Tribunals will mean in practice.
2014 is set to follow suit and is not a year for complacency as further changes are due to come into force. I thought a little reminder about what is expected to happen this year would be helpful.
31 January 2014 – amendments to the Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) Regulations 2005 are due to take place. The Government has published the final text of the amending Regulations, with the catchy title of “The Collective Redundancies and Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) (Amendment) Regulations 2014”. The main changes likely to have a wide spread impact are allowing change of location to be an economic, technical or organisational reason and permitting employers to make changes to terms and conditions arising for reasons related to the transfer.
6 April 2014 – The Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act is due to abolish discrimination questionnaires but widen powers of Employment Tribunals to make recommendations in cases before them. In a recent case the Tribunal recommended that all employees of a certain seniority and above undertook, within a 12 month period, specific training on the meaning of a disabled person so that they could identify such persons and prevent discriminatory treatment of them.
6 April 2014 – Mandatory early conciliation with ACAS will be introduced. Potential Claimants will have to submit details of their claim to ACAS before submitting it to the Employment Tribunal. The parties will be offered conciliation for one month but if it is unsuccessful or if one party refuses, the claim can proceed to the Employment Tribunal. Whilst the claim is under conciliation under this procedure the period of three months in which the Claimant must submit their claim to the Employment Tribunal will be put on hold.
6 April 2014 – The right to request flexible working will be made open to all employees with 26 weeks’ service and employers will not have to follow the statutory regime for considering requests, instead all requests must be considered reasonably.
Spring 2014 – The health and work assessment and advisory service is due to be implemented. This time table is ambitious for such a large project and it is my view that this, or at least parts of it, are at risk of being pushed back. The two parts to this project are one, to introduce a new state funded health assessment of employees who have been off sick for more than one month and two, to case manage employees with complex health issues to facilitate their return to work. As employers know, managing employees on long term sickness and those with complex issues is a difficult and time consuming task. If sufficient funds are not made available to enable the service to become really involved with such employees, it is difficult to see what this service is going to add.