The 6 April is one of the Government’s two annual ‘common commencement dates’ and, as ever, there are plenty of changes to get to grips with. A familiar change is the annual increase in statutory payments such as sick pay, maternity, paternity and adoption pay. However, for the first time, the annual increase in statutory compensation limits also takes place on 6 April, rather than in February. Other changes taking place on 6 April that may take a bit more getting used to include the introduction of Acas conciliation before a claimant can lodge a tribunal claim, the repeal of the statutory discrimination questionnaires and the introduction of financial penalties for employers found to have breached employment law where the tribunal considers that the breach had ‘one or more aggravating features’.
In summary, the changes taking place this spring include:
6 April 2014
• the introduction of Acas early conciliation (EC). The EC scheme, which will apply to most employment tribunal claims, comes into force on 6 April 2014, although EC compliance (i.e. the requirement to notify Acas first before lodging a claim) will only be mandatory for claims presented on or after 6 May 2014 – Reg 4(1) Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act 2013 (Commencement No.5, Transitional Provisions and Savings) Order 2014 SI 2014/253. This means that EC can be used on a voluntary basis between 6 April and 5 May. For further information on the introduction of EC see our feature in IDS Brief 994
• increases in tribunal fees for some claims. The Courts and Tribunals Fees (Miscellaneous Amendments) Order 2014 SI 2014/590 amends the Employment Tribunals and the Employment Appeal Tribunal Fees Order 2013 SI 2013/1893 to apply the higher Type B issue fee and hearing fee to a number of claims (including equal pay) to which the lower Type A fees applied when fees were introduced. When the Employment Tribunals and EAT Fees Order was made, certain proceedings which should have attracted a Type B fee were wrongly included in the table for Type A fees in Schedule 2
• financial penalties for employers found to have breached a claimant’s employment rights if the tribunal considers that the breach had ‘one or more aggravating features’. Article 3(e) and (h) of the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act 2013 (Commencement No. 5, Transitional Provisions and Savings) Order 2014 SI 2014/253 commences the provisions on financial penalties. For more details see our feature on the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act 2013 in Brief 974
• increases in various statutory payments. The Welfare Benefits Uprating Order 2014 SI 2014/147 increases the weekly rate of statutory sick pay from £86.70 to £87.55, and statutory maternity pay, ordinary and additional paternity pay, and adoption pay from £136.78 to £138.18 a week
• increases in various statutory compensation limits by the Employment Rights (Increase of Limits) Order 2014 SI 2014/382 (including the amount of a week’s pay used for statutory redundancy payments and the basic and compensatory awards for unfair dismissal) – see our news story of 26 February for further details. S.22 of the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act 2013 amended S.34 of the Employment Relations Act 1999 so that these changes will now be made on 6 April each year (instead of in February, as previously)
• the abolition of statutory discrimination questionnaires contained in S.138 of the Equality Act 2010 in relation to acts of discrimination occurring on or after 6 April 2014. See the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act 2013 (Commencement No. 6, Transitional Provisions and Savings) Order 2014 SI 2014/416. The Explanatory Notes to the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act 2013 state that, in the absence of S.138 EqA, a complainant may still ask questions of the respondent and a court or tribunal can still draw adverse inferences from a refusal to respond or from evasive answers, despite the lack of any provision for a statutory questionnaire. Acas has issued guidance explaining how ‘informal’ questions may be asked of employers
• the abolition of statutory sick pay percentage threshold schemes, which enabled employers to recover amounts of statutory sick pay. The Statutory Sick Pay Percentage Threshold (Revocations, Transitional and Saving Provisions) (Great Britain and Northern Ireland) Order 2014 SI 2014/897 revokes the Orders that established statutory sick pay percentage threshold schemes with effect from 6 April 2014. Transitional and saving provisions enable employers to continue recovery of statutory sick pay until 6 April 2016 for days of incapacity falling before 6 April 2014
• changes to the tax system in order to tackle false self-employment, i.e. the use of employment intermediaries to present employment situations as self-employment. Further information can be viewed here
• amendments to the schedule to the Public Interest Disclosure (Prescribed Persons) Order 1999 by the Public Interest Disclosure (Prescribed Persons) (Amendment) Order 2014 SI 2014/596 to make MPs prescribed persons for whistleblowing purposes, and
• new legislation on blacklisting. The Employment Relations (Northern Ireland) Order 1999 (Blacklists) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2014 come into force to prohibit the compilation, distribution and use of blacklists, the purpose of which is to facilitate discrimination against trade union members and activists by employers and employment agencies.
7 April 2014
The Social Security Benefits Up-rating Regulations 2014 SI 2014/618, among other things, restrict the increase in maternity allowance contained in the Welfare Benefits Up-rating Order 2014 SI 2014/147 where the beneficiary is not ordinarily resident in Great Britain. It also prevents the increased rate from applying if a question arises about the increase in maternity allowance until that question is determined by the Secretary of State, the First-tier Tribunal or the Upper Tribunal.
22 April 2014
Civil court fees to increase. The Government’s response to part one of its consultation on civil court fees set out its proposals to recover close to the full cost of the civil court system through fees. The fees are amended by the Civil Proceedings Fees (Amendment) Order 2014 SI 2014/874 and will come into force on 22 April. Changes to fees in the Court of Appeal will take place once the necessary changes have been made to the procedural rules.
The Government will consult on making ‘caste’ an aspect of the protected characteristic of race as required by S.97 of the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act 2013.