The Ministry of Justice has announced that it is introducing an online service for the payment of employment tribunal fees. According to the announcement, the facility to pay online will be available from July 2013. This suggests that the new fee structure proposed shall be introduced then.
Level 1 claims
|Fee Type||Two to ten claimants||11 to 200 claimants||201 or more claimants|
Level 2 claims
|Fee Type||Two to ten claimants||11 to 200 claimants||201 or more claimants|
Other fees linked to the process are as follows:
- An application to set aside a default judgement – The fee would be £100 which would be payable by the respondent.
- An application to dismiss a claim following settlement or withdrawal – The fee would be £60 although it has been recommended that when a party withdraws their claim the respondent should not have to pay to get their claim dismissed.
- An application for judicial mediation – The fee would be £600 and is payable by the employer.
- A breach of contract counter claim – The fee would be £160 payable by the employer.
- An application for a review of a tribunals decision or judgement – The fee for this would be £100 for level one claims and £350 for level two claims.
Their service can also be invaluable with cases of intermittent absences eg Monday/Friday syndrome. They can help decide whether an employee is “swinging the lead” or may have a genuine underlying problem.
An independent occupational health advisor is more preferable than an employer contacting an employee’s GP with their agreement. Whereas occupational health will act in the interests of the employer, the GP will act only in the interests of their patient; the GP might not be forthcoming with information requested of them.
If you need advice on sickness absence issues call Sandra Beale on 07762 771290.
In aid of Comic Relief last week the BBC has aired Celebrity Bake Off where each day four celebrities have showed off their baking skills with one celebrity being judged the winner. It has been a highly entertaining programme watching the celebrities struggling with the requirements of delivering signature bakes, a technical challenge and show stopper cakes to be scrutinised by judges Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood.
On Tuesday the line up of celebrities included Warwick Davis who began his career in Star Wars. He suffers from spondyloepiphyseal dyplasia congenita that causes his dwarfism. Warwick cooked delicately iced biscuits, a delicious bakewell tart and a wonderous three layered gateau; to ice the gateau he had to use a ladder. However, his baking was demonstrably a cut above the rest including the very competitive Duncan Banatyne and quite rightly he won the competition.
On Wednesday Ellie Simmonds of Team GB fame who won four gold medals in the Paralympics swimming appeared. She has dwarfism. She made flavoursome chocolate and orange scones, chocolate eclairs and a gateau. She regularly bakes at home and for her team mates and again produced some outstanding baking that won her the competition.
This programme was great to watch as it focused on everyone’s baking abilities and was level playing field in that respect. The two shorter celebrities had to have raised staging to accommodate their shortened height but that was the only reasonable adjustment made.
To a certain extent programme follows on from the outstanding achievements shown by the disabled athletes who took part in the 2012 Paralympics showing how anyone can excel at what they do and shine in their abilities given the chance.
Employers should take more note of what disabled people can do rather than focusing on what they can’t do. It is a shameful statistic that only one in ten disabled people are in work according to a report commissioned by the Equality and Human Rights Commission in 2012. One in six people who become disabled lose their job within the first year and that figure doubles after two years. This is a real shame as the talent pool could be widened if employers could only overcome the barriers to providing support and their prejudice. Legislation only goes some of the way in helping the situation.
Most disabled people do not want to be singled out for special treatment and many prefer to keep quiet about their condition. This is sometimes possible with disabilities that are not visible such as dyslexia and epilepsy, but it is not possible with an obvious physical disability. Therefore, the mindset of UK employers needs to be changed. This can be done by having more disabled people demonstrating their talents in the spotlight as we have witnessed this week.
If you need advice on disability issues please call Sandra Beale on 07762 771290.
HR support doesn’t need to be in the form of an HR department. Whilst that may suit large organisations which employ lots of staff, with a small company it is just not necessary because there is often no need and it is considered too costly even to employ an HR Manager. However, there will be situations that arise whereby even a small company will need HR support or employment law advice from time to time. These days there are many providers of independent HR support and advice – large independent call centres, call centres linked to chambers of commerce, employment lawyers and independent HR consultants to consider.
Even the internet can be used to source HR advice, but employers must beware of failing to correctly understand the information they obtain and then acting inappropriately. I recently heard about a business owner who wanted to dismiss a senior member of staff for poor performance. The business owner had not spoken to the employee about this at all. Instead he sought a template document off a business related website that informed the employee he was being invited to a meeting in order to be dismissed. If the business owner had sent that letter then he could have ended up with a costly employment tribunal, however he did actually speak to an HR consultant before doing so and was given correct advice on how to proceed.
The choice of HR support will depend on what type of service a company is looking for. A call centre HR service provider may be able to offer telephone HR advice but the chances are that different call centre operatives will pick up a call related to an ongoing situation, therefore, there will be advice from various advisors which may not always be good. By choosing either an independent HR consultant or an employment lawyer a more personal service is provided and by speaking to the same person each time an HR issue arises a relationship is built up. The advisor will get to know about the business and possibly the more problematic members of staff, therefore the advice will be more tailored.
The budget available for HR support could determine the type of HR support service required. In general the larger HR advice providers may charge a large annual sum for retained HR support and lock companies into lengthy, inflexible contracts. This is because they will have much higher overheads eg building and staff costs. Likewise employment lawyers, traditionally have a high fee structure. Perhaps the cheapest option could be an HR consultant who has lots of practical HR experience and good employment law knowledge. If they are CIPD qualified this is a good indicator that they have met the rigorous standards of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development and will provide a good standard of advice.
There may be bolt on services that an employer may require in addition to telephone and email HR advice. For example there may be the requirement for HR documentation such as employment contracts, employee handbooks, job descriptions and scripts. Large HR service providers may provide online access to template documentation that can be easily downloaded. However it is important to ensure that back up advice is available on the use of such documents to ensure that they will be used appropriately and legally. An independent HR consultant or an employment lawyer should be able to provide a similar service on an as required basis, but again the cost should be established.
Whilst a call centre can provide excellent HR advice on the phone and via email in the majority of cases they can not provide any on site HR support. Sometimes employers may need the back up support of an HR professional on site to help them with a difficult employee situation eg to have coaching with a disciplinary hearing and note taking or to assist with recruitment. Few employment lawyers provide this service, however, a flexible HR consultant would more than likely be able to assist.
So when considering sources of HR support and advice there are key points to consider. The most important thing for companies to remember is to get HR assistance when they are unsure of how to proceed with an employment problem otherwise it could cost them dear in an employment tribunal.
If you need HR support and advice call Sandra Beale on 07762 771290.
The MOD has just announced that there are to be 5,000 more redundancies in summer 2013. This follows a gradual reduction in the number of troops the UK maintains, with yet more to come so that by 2020 there will only be 10,000 in total. This is all part of a drive to help cut the deficit.
When managing redundancy there are key things that the MOD along with any employer needs to know.
1. Ensure the Redundancy is Genuine
When applying a genuine occupational requirement in a job advert employers must be wary to ensure there is clear justification for its inclusion otherwise they could be liable for a discrimination claim.
Genuine occupational qualifications (GOQ) were first introduced in the Sex Discrimination Act 1975 which included a list of when they could be applied. They existed when there was a requirement for a particular job to have a person of a certain gender that would allow the employer to choose one applicant over another.
The Equality Act 2010 introduced a single ‘occupational requirement’ (GOR), which applies to all of the protected characteristics. Under this an employer must simply show that the requirement to discriminate is a ‘proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim’. The list of genuine occupational qualifications outlined in previous legislation was done away with.
Now if a discrimination claim is brought, the burden of proof is on the employer to prove that a GOR is justified. There are some areas of work where discrimination in favour of a particular protected characteristic is permitted on the recruitment, transfer, training, dismissal or promotion of certain roles, with different tests applying, depending on the strand of discrimination law.
An employer must decide whether a GOR may apply before advertising the job. In very limited circumstances if an employer can shoe that someone with a protected characteristic (on grounds of age, gender, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, race, religion/belief, sex ur sexual orientation) is central to a particular job then an employer can insist that only someone with that protected characteristic is suitable for the job. All roles in an organisation must be considered separately. If there is a GOR relating to one role, it will not necessarily apply to all roles within the organisation. GORs should be reviewed each time the job becomes vacant, as circumstances may change. If only a few tasks require that the employee have a particular characteristic, an employer should consider whether duties could be reallocated so to other employees who do meet the requirement.
There is no definitive list so if unsure employers should take legal advice. Examples of GORs are a black actor required for the play Othello, the justification for this would be authenticity purposes. A female worker for a domestic violence unit; the justification being the women are seeking refuge from men. A same sex lavatory attendant; justification being privacy and decency. An organisation for deaf people might legitimately employ a deaf person who uses British Sign Language to work as a counsellor to other people whose preferred language is BSL.
As recently announced by the Department for Work and Pensions:
The new rate of statutory sick pay will be effective from 6 April 2013 and the rate for the other statutory payments will be effective from 7 April 2013.
The proposed increases are as follows:
- Statutory maternity pay, statutory paternity pay and statutory adoption pay will increase from £135.45 to £136.78. The weekly earnings threshold for these payments will rise from £107 to £109
- Statutory sick pay will increase from £85.85 to £86.70, with the weekly earnings threshold also rising from £107 to £109.
- Maternity allowance will increase from £135.45 to £136.78, with the earnings threshold remaining at £30.
The recent case of Stuart v London City Airport has highlighted the importance of undertaking a reasonable investigation before an employer takes action. In this case the employer failed to investigate the conduct of an employee who the employer considered had stolen goods.
The worst of the winter weather has hit the UK hard with icy temperatures and snow. Yet again millions of workers are struggling to get to work, some don’t make it at all.
So what are the obligations of an employer in bad weather situations? Above all the health and safety of employees is paramount and an employer shouldn’t expect employees to risk their lives getting into work with icy and possibly snow-blocked roads. Also there may be bus and train cancellations that will impact on an employees ability to get into work. However, there is no obligation for an employer to pay an employee who does not turn in.
In this day and age with electronic devices freely available, many jobs can be done at home using the PC and mobile phone. Due consideration to this should be made instead of insisting employees try and get into work. After all home-working can be very productive, therefore, it would be a good idea to organise IT systems so that work can be picked up remotely. For other types of organisations where employees have to be present, it might be a good idea to consider whether if customers or clients are usually present on site whether they too will be affected by the bad weather. In such circumstances it might be a good idea to close up the business completely until the weather has calmed down somewhat. Flexibility should be the key wherever possible with work location and working hours.
For such eventualities it is important to have a bad weather policy in place that covers bad weather situations so that employees and managers know where they stand.
The policy should contain information on requesting the employee to communicate with their employer in situations were they are affected by adverse weather conditions so their employer can be informed of what is happening. Furthermore the employer needs to know of any implications this could have on work deadlines, etc. and be able to provide permission for home-working where relevant.
Information on the pay situation in such circumstances is important. Employers need to provide clear information on whether they will pay or not if staff can be attend work. The employer may consider providing no pay or giving the employee the option to take holiday.