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July 2012 Updates

Employment law changes

Sunday trading laws will be relaxed from 22 July 2012 until 9 September 2012 for the Olympic and Paralympic Games. Usually, shops can only be open for six hours between 10 am and 6 pm on Sundays but this will be waived during the Olympic period.

Guidance during the Olympics

Acas, the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service, has produced guidance on planning ahead and ensuring that businesses run smoothly during the Olympics.

For employers, it offers advice on how to keep staff happy (for example, by offering flexible working hours) and how to deal with any performance management issues which may arise (for example, if employees are taking time off work as "sick" to attend the games).

For employees, it offers tips on rights to attend the Games as a volunteer, and how best to approach securing time off for any events that you may have tickets for.

You can find the full details on a dedicated section of the Acas website: www.acas.co.uk/olympics

Stewart Law wishes Team GB all the best of luck with their Olympic endeavours. We hope that you all enjoy the Games!

Annual Employment Tribunal statistics

The annual employment tribunal statistics have been published.

Some key points to note are:

The total number of claims submitted has again decreased. The total number of claims across the 2009/2010 period was 236,000. Across the 2010/2011 period it was 218,000. Across the 2011/2012 period it was 186,000.

Unfair dismissal claims have reduced from 47,900 to 46,300.

Unemployment rates from the Office of National Statistics

The Office for National Statistics has published its employment figures, and interestingly, although overall unemployment figures have actually fallen, the number of people who have been unemployed for more than two years has actually risen to the highest level in 15 years, at almost half a million people.

Employment Tribunal rules

The Government are currently considering new draft Tribunal rules. View them in full

Some key suggestions to note are:

  • Case Management Discussions and Pre-Hearing Reviews would be combined and relabelled 'Preliminary Hearings'.
  • Cases would go through an initial paper sift, to consider directions and whether to strike-out any aspects of a claim that lack any reasonable prospect of success.
  • Simplifying rules on default judgments.
  • Giving judges power to limit oral evidence and submissions, and to "cut things short" if parties ignore express directions of this nature.
  • Removing the £20,000 cap on the Tribunal's ability to assess costs. This would avoid the need to refer to the County Court for assessment.

Fees in Employment Tribunals

The Ministry of Justice has announced a new fee system to be introduced in to the Tribunal system. These changes are currently due to be put in place during the summer of 2013.

The figures are as follows:

  • For Level 1 claims (i.e. very straightforward claims, such as unlawful deductions from wages) - a £160 fee to issue the claim and a £230 hearing fee.
  • For Level 2 claims (i.e. anything more complex, such as discrimination claims) - a £250 fee to issue the claim and a £950 hearing fee.
  • For appeals to the Employment Appeal Tribunal - a £400 fee to issue an appeal fee and a £1,200 hearing fee.
  • There will also be a range of other fees announced in due course, including a £600 fee if the case is put forward and accepted for judicial mediation.

Rise in job opportunities

Despite the problems with the UK economy, the number of job opportunities in the country is continuing to grow.

The latest figures from the Reed Job Index found that the number of jobs posted online in July 2012 was 13% higher than the same month last year. It was also 2.5% higher than in June 2012. However, the latest figures from the Office for National Statistics, suggested that the economy had in fact shrunk by 0.7% in the second quarter of 2012.

Chelmsford employment law issues

Chelmsford's Citizen Advice Bureau (CAB) has published a report on the issues that the City's residents have contacted them for advice on during the 2011/2012 period.

Of the 14,000 issues that the CAB dealt with, around 9% of them related to employment. Issues included redundancy, unfair dismissal and other employment rights.

The most common employment issue raised with the CAB was discrimination, with dismissals and redundancies ranking in eleventh and twelfth place respectively.

Encouragingly, the Chelmsford figures ranked lower than or similar to the national average in lots of areas.

The CAB's report also looked at the type of people who had contacted the office and found that:

For terms and conditions of employment advice:

  • There was almost a 50/50 gender split.
  • No particular age range was more affected than another.
  • A similar number of full-time and part-time workers were affected.

For pay and entitlements advice:

  • Women were more affected.
  • 67% of enquires were from people aged between 17 and 34.
  • Around two thirds were in part time employment.

For dismissal advice:

  • There was almost a 50/50 gender split.
  • 50% of enquires were from people aged between 17 and 34.
  • Most were in full time employment.

For redundancy advice:

  • There was almost a 50/50 gender split.
  • The majority (45%) were aged between 35 and 49.
  • The CAB has also found that as of April 2012, a higher number of Chelmsford residents (around 3,000) are now claiming Job Seekers Allowance. This has increased from around 1,500 people in April 2007.

Legal organisations unhappy with proposed reforms

The Employment Lawyers Association (ELA), which represents around 6,000 employment lawyers, has said that the Government's proposals in the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill are poorly thought through.

They feel that the plans, will shake up current employment law, will prolong, rather than settle, disputes and stretch Acas' resources 'beyond breaking point'.

The ELA's primary concern is the plan to cap the compensatory award for unfair dismissal, which it says came "out of the blue".

In a response to a call for evidence on the bill, the ELA said: "ELA foresees confusion, greater cause for argument and the potential that claimants pursue discrimination or whistleblowing claims, where no cap applies, instead of unfair dismissal claims".

The ELA is also concerned that the proposals do not clearly define what an 'aggravating factor' that would allow employment tribunals to impose financial penalties on employers might be.

The Law Society committee has voiced similar concerns. In particular, it wants Acas to be 'adequately resourced and its role clearly defined'. It is opposing placing a cap on compensatory awards for unfair dismissal.

The Law Society committee also stated that more clarification should be given on the qualifications required for 'legal officers' to hear some types of employment tribunal claims.

Constructive dismissal

In Assamoi v Spirit Pub Company, the Employment Appeal Tribunal has confirmed that if an employer upholds an employee's grievance relating to treatment by his immediate manager, this can prevent the employee relying on the same treatment to show a breach of the implied contractual term of trust and confidence.

There is a distinction between preventing matters escalating into a breach of the implied term of mutual trust and confidence, and trying to cure a breach which has already taken place. As demonstrated by earlier Employment Appeal Tribunal decisions, once a breach has taken place, it cannot be cured.

In this case, the employee worked as a head chef. He raised a grievance about how he was being treated by his immediate manager. This was upheld by more senior managers, who took steps to rectify the situation.

He later resigned and put in a claim for constructive dismissal.

The Employment Appeal Tribunal decided that, although the immediate manager had behaved badly towards the employee, this alone did not amount to a breach of the implied term of trust and confidence. The actions of the more senior managers had prevented the matter escalating into a state of affairs that would have justified the employee leaving and claiming he was constructively dismissed.

Email: info@stewartlaw.co.uk


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