Newsletter July 2017
Welcome to August’s newsletter, HR…with emphasis
In the last week, we have seen the Supreme Court issue a ground-breaking ruling that Employment Tribunal fees are unlawful and unconstitutional. The UK Government is now expected to refund some £32m in fees to people who have brought unfair dismissal claims to tribunal.
The Taylor Review of Modern Working Practices was also published last week. This independent review, commissioned by Prime Minister Teresa May, examined how employment practices need to change to keep pace with modern business models, particularly those in the “gig economy* ”.
For August, we also feature our specialist training programmes which equip your managers with an unparalleled skillset to manage their people.
* gig economy is an environment in which temporary positions are common and organisations contract with independent workers for short-term engagements.
Supreme Court rules employment tribunal fees are unlawful
On 26 July, the Supreme Court ruled Employment Tribunal fees are unlawful and unconstitutional and the requirement for claimants to pay a fee to bring a claim for unfair dismissal must be quashed.
The implications and risk to employers of claims brought to tribunal are now highly likely to return to pre-July 2013 levels when the Government introduced the fees in a bid to cut the number of weak or malicious cases. It is anticipated the absence of fees will impact heavily on employer strategies regarding the use of settlement agreements, as well as decision-making on settling or fighting claims when contacted by ACAS for early conciliation moves.
In its final appeal to the Supreme Court, Unison argued that the Government’s introduction of fees of up to £1200 in July 2013, was an unlawful exercise of the Lord Chancellor’s statutory powers, not only preventing workers’ access to justice under both UK and EU law, but because it discriminated against women and other groups with protected characteristics under the Equality Act 2010.
Unison general secretary Dave Prentis said: “The government has been acting unlawfully, and has been proved wrong – not just on simple economics, but on constitutional law and basic fairness too.”
He added: “These unfair fees have let law-breaking bosses off the hook these past four years, and left badly treated staff with no choice but to put up or shut up.
“We’ll never know how many people missed out because they couldn’t afford the expense of fees.”
In light of the new ruling, the Government has already made a voluntary commitment to refund up to £32m to claimants dating back to 2013.
The Taylor Review of Modern Working Practices – what does it mean for employers?
Almost a year after Teresa May first announced the report into modern working practices, we outline eight key facts you need to know arising from the long-awaited Taylor review.
Worker status could be scrapped – the review favours the current 3-tier system of employee status – employee, worker and self-employed – should be retained, but recommends ‘worker’ status is dropped in favour of ‘dependent contractor’ in a bid to more clearly distinguish between those genuinely self-employed and those who are not. Furthermore, the review concluded that more weight needs to be given to the concept of ‘control’ when defining employment status. The report also said that dependent contractors are most at risk of being taken advantage of by businesses and should therefore benefit from being granted additional protection.
Get the calculator out! For those running platform-based working ie platforms connecting workers with customers who want a service such as Uber and Deliveroo, the report has called for them to demonstrate they are paying their average worker 1.2 times the National Minimum Wage (NMW).
More red tape may not be the answer – the report suggests regulation is not the holy grail for improving workers’ experiences. Instead, the review calls for responsible corporate governance, better management and stronger employment relations, with duties on employers to report certain information on their employment model and workforce structure. Furthermore, the review stresses companies must strive for greater transparency and reporting of their practices to ensure all workers feel engaged and have a voice.
Businesses could face bigger consequences if brought before a tribunal – although the report did not call for Employment Tribunal fees to be scrapped, it did advocate some sizeable changes to the system. Employees should have the right to have their employment status determined without having to pay tribunal fees. , Businesses not paying awards from tribunal rulings within a reasonable timeframe could be named and shamed. In addition, businesses failing to change the status of their employees after a tribunal ruling, could face being brought up again before a Judge and being hit with penalties.
Zero-hours contracts – zero-hours workers could soon be requesting a more regular working schedule. The review recognised that casual/zero hours contracts allow flexibility for both worker and employer, but recommends steps to ensure the flexibility of the arrangement does not heavily favour the employer at the expense of the individual. Those engaged on a zero-hours contract should have the right to request fixed hours with a starting assumption of the average hours they have worked over the previous 12-month period or longer.
Agency workers – much like zero-hours contracts, the Taylor report recommends agency workers have the right to request a direct contract of employment with the hirer if they have been placed with the same hirer for at least 12 months. The hirer is required to treat such requests seriously and fairly.
Statutory sick pay and sickness absence – when a worker is unable to work through illness, the report states that access to a basic level of income replacement should form a core set of employment rights. The report also went on to recommend that Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) should be reformed as an explicit basic employment right for which all workers are eligible regardless of income from day one. SSP should be payable by the employer and accrued on length of service. Also covered within the review is support for workers returning to work after a period of long-term sickness absence with the employer duty-bound to make reasonable adjustments.
Family-friendly rights and flexible working – Taylor recommends the Government should review and consolidate guidance on pregnancy and maternity discrimination in a bid to enable women to more easily decipher unlawful discrimination and challenge it. In addition, as part of its assessment of the flexible working scheme in 2019, the Government should consider how to genuinely promote flexible working.
The report does not change the law as it currently stands and therefore there is no urgency to take immediate action. That said, those businesses operating in the gig economy with zero-hours contract workers, might want to evaluate their employment models and working arrangements to see how and where the Taylor report recommendations might affect their business.
In addition, employers may benefit from setting up ‘contingency’ funds or conduct a risk analysis of potential claims from any current individuals potentially classified as “workers” under current legislation.
Effective appraisals workshop
How would the appraisee evaluate the appraiser? Get appraisal match fit ready and learn how to create high performing teams through clear and measurable objectives with this 1-day workshop.
Delivered by industry-leading coach and trainer, Jane Michel, this fun and interactive workshop is designed to equip managers with the skills to give and receive effective feedback, set meaningful objectives, linking to the overall business goals.
Whether you are an experienced appraiser looking to hone, refine and refresh your skills or a newly promoted first-timer, this workshop will provide anyone managing others with the knowledge and skills to prepare for, conduct and execute an effective appraisal meeting.
Our effective appraisals workshop can be delivered as an open workshop in our training suite or as a bespoke training programme for your company to reflect your culture, organisational goals and objectives.
The following client testimonial is following a bespoke appraisals workshop delivered on-site to the business leadership #happyclient
COST: £295 + VAT per person
DATE OF WORKSHOP: 15 August 2017: 9.30 – 4.00
All workshops are held in our training suite here at emphasis HR & Training in Romsey. However, all workshops can be specifically tailored to your organisation and delivered as a bespoke programme in-house. Call 0194 874232 or email firstname.lastname@example.org for details and pricing.