The year started with the amended TUPE Regulations coming into force on 31 January 2014. The amending legislation made some significant changes to the law governing a Transfer of Undertaking.
Unison's application for judicial review of the UK Government's introduction of Employment Tribunal fees for Claimant was dismissed by the High Court.
The case of USDAW v Woolworths was referred by the Court of Appeal to the Court of Justice of the European Union. This case considerably widened the employer's duty to collectively consult in redundancy situations.
An interesting report from the Cabinet Office highlighted the level of job satisfaction people feel in relation to their work. Those happiest in their work were the clergy, chief executives, agriculture/horticulture managers and quality assurance/regulatory professionals. Those less contented in their roles included publicans, elementary construction workers, debt/rent collectors and industrial cleaners.
We launched the 2nd generation version of our employment law app.
The Employment Appeal Tribunal decided that covert recordings will usually be admissible in an employment tribunal provided that the evidence is relevant.
A major change in procedure was introduced from 6 April 2014 with the introduction of Early ACAS Conciliation. This was voluntary between 6 April 2014 and 6 May 2014 when it became a mandatory requirement.
April also saw an increase in compensatory award limits from £74,200 to £76,574 or 12 months' pay whichever is lower, with a week's pay increasing from £450 to £464.
Discrimination questionnaires were abolished and discretionary financial penalties for employers who lose Tribunal claims came into force.
May brought to light a worrying finding from The Federation of Small Businesses that nearly one fifth of all candidates for jobs have provided false references on their application, compounded by the existence of websites offering fraudulent references. The findings highlighted just how important it is for employers to ensure that they follow up on all references and don't just assume that they are genuine.
Another report discovered that one fifth of all new employees either fail their probationary period or have it extended - the same one fifth who had submitted a false reference? A correlative study would be interesting.
The European Court of Justice decides that statutory holiday pay should include commission in the case of British Gas v Lock.
The Government's changes to the flexible working regime came into force on 30 June. All employees with 26 weeks' service no have the right to request flexible working. Previously this right was limited to employees who were parents or carers and had 26 weeks' service.
The Small Business, Enterprise and Employment Bill was published.
The High Court rejected an application for a judicial review of the cap on the maximum compensatory award tribunals can award in unfair dismissal cases.
The EAT decided that 65 was an appropriate age for mandatory retirement in the long running case of Seldon involving a partner in a law firm.
The Government announces plans to ban exclusivity clauses in zero hour contracts.
The Equal Opportunities Review published their annual survey of compensatory awards in discrimination cases.
July also saw the submission of a 100,000 signatures e-petition seeking to recognise Eid and Diwali as public holidays. This idea has political support and is one to watch in coming years.
The Advocate General issued an opinion decided that obesity was not, in itself, a disability but that someone who was obese could be disabled. The decision of the Court of Justice of the European Union on this case is awaited.
A study carried out by Saga highlighted that there has been a 36% increase in the number of workers over the age of 65 in the last four years. This means that there are currently 1,100,000 over 65s employed in permanent positions in the UK. The advice to employers is to treat all employees (or prospective employees) equally, irrespective of age and not to make any assumptions regarding someone's ability to do a job based on their age.
Glasgow hosted an excellent Commonwealth Games in August but one employee who was seen at the Opening Ceremony dressed as a Tunnock's teacake and dancing whilst signed off work sick.
PwC published findings that a third of British workers admit they have pulled a 'sickie'. PwC surveyed over 2,000 UK workers and found that the most common reasons for pulling a 'sickie' are: Hangovers (32%), Boredom with job (26%), Interviews (26%), Mondays (11%), Good weather (10%), To watch a sporting event (8%).
September was dominated by the independence referendum and people's hopes and fears for the future of Scotland. The impact independence might have on employment law was, like everything else, up for debate.
Another landmark vote took place on 18 September 2014 when members of the Royal and Ancient Golf Club voted to admit women as members of the club. Whilst a welcome step, the vote was not as a consequence of any legal requirements the Equality Act 2010 allows 'single characteristic associations' to directly discriminate on grounds of a protected characteristic in certain circumstances.
Richard Branson sent out an almost too good to be true message to some of his employers by implementing unlimited holiday entitlement provided that the leave was not detrimental to the running of the business.
Zero Hours Contracts led to more litigation as employees of Sports Direct raised a claim for breach of contract in relation to the Company's refusal to include zero hour contract employees in the bonus scheme.
Statistics were published showing the most up to date figures of the number and nature of Employment Tribunal claims raised in Scotland, England & Wales. The statistics showed that the total number of cases received from August 2013 (after fees were introduced) until the end of March 2014 was 16,206 compared to 39,567 in the same 8 month period the previous year. This is a drop of 59%.
The statistics were of particular interest in relation to the Court of Appeal case heard on 18 September 2015 which considered Unison's challenge to the introduction of Employment Tribunal fees. The Court of Appeal decided to put the appeal proceedings on hold so that fresh judicial review proceedings could be raised in the High Court.
September also saw a further warning to employees regarding their use of social media as an Employment Tribunal heard a case involving an employee who was dismissed for 'liking' a Facebook post which appeared to threaten violent behaviour towards his manager.
A fresh judicial review hearing took place on 21 and 22 October in the High Court following Unison's application to admit new evidence at a preliminary appeal hearing in September.
The 2014 CIPD annual survey report on absence management was published in October. It reported that overall absence levels have fallen from an average of 7.6 days absence per employee in 2013 to 6.6 days in 2014.
Annual increase to the national minimum wage rates.
Right to take time off work to attend antenatal appointments with the child's mother introduced.
From 1 October Tribunals are required to order employers who breach equal pay legislation to carry out equal pay audits in certain circumstances.
The statutory qualifying period for unfair dismissal was removed where the dismissal is connected with the employee's membership of the Reserve Forces.
4 November was Equal Pay Day. Despite legislation being brought into force over the years, including the Equality Act 2010, in 2014 the gender pay gap is still around 16%.
The eagerly anticipated Employment Appeal Tribunal's (EAT) decision on holiday pay in the case of Bear Scotland Limited and others was issued.
The Government launched a review regarding the employment status of workers and also proposed that there should be a single national minimum wage rate for apprentices and those aged 16 to 17 years.
ACAS published statistics for the first six months of Early Conciliation scheme which showed that only 24% of claims progressed to an Employment Tribunal.
The Smith Commission on further devolved powers for Scotland indicated in its report that 'All powers over the management and operation of all reserved tribunals (which includes administrative, judicial and legislative powers) will be devolved to the Scottish Parliament other than the Special Immigration Appeals Commission and the Proscribed Organisations Appeals Commission.' It is considered that this will include Employment Tribunals. The Scottish Government have previously made clear their opposition to Tribunal fees. This suggests that we could end up with a situation where there are no fees for claims in Scotland but fees where the claim is raised in England & Wales. This is one to watch with interest in 2015.
Unite announced that they would not be appealing the Employment Appeal Tribunal's (EAT) decision on holiday pay in the case of Bear Scotland Limited and others thereby reducing the spectre of significant backdated Tribunal claims for unlawful deductions of wages in holiday pay claims.
Holiday pay and the controversy surrounding Tribunal fees were the hot topics of 2014 and the year ends with the Ministry of Justice publishing details of the number of new Employment Tribunal claims received between July and September 2014. The report indicates that in 2012/13, the Employment Tribunal received on average 48,000 new claims per quarter. Figures for July to September 2014 show that there were 13,612 new claims.
I will blog on what to expect in 2015 shortly….
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