Recent employment law changes to note

The start of April is often a time when a number of changes to employment law come into force and this year is no exception. Some of the key changes employers need to be aware of are outlined below.

By Karen Credie, director, KMC HR Consulting.

ACAS early conciliation. From 6th April, early conciliation for claimants wanting to pursue employment claims is being brought in. The process, which encourages the parties involved in litigation to try to settle and therefore avoid cases going to Tribunal, will be optional for the first month, becoming mandatory on 6th May. After this date, an employee will not be able to file a claim at the Employment Tribunal without a certificate number from ACAS, which can only be obtained by contacting them about conciliation.

With claimants still having to pay employment tribunal fees if they want to take the case to tribunal following failure of conciliation via ACAS, and employers still having the option of settling at any point prior to an Employment Tribunal, it is perhaps unlikely that this change will have a great deal of impact on employers. It may be that this will be seen by employees as a ‘free’ route to trying to pursue a claim. If you receive a notification from ACAS that an employee has entered into early conciliation, you should seek advice from an HR expert.

Increases to compensatory awards. On 6th April, there was an increase to the maximum unfair dismissal compensation limit, taking this to £76,574. In the majority of cases, it is unlikely that this figure would be awarded however as since July last year, unfair dismissal claims have had compensation capped at one year’s salary. A ‘week’s pay’ for calculating the basic award in unfair dismissal claims has increased from £450 to £464 (this rate also applies when calculating redundancy pay).

Fines for employers at Employment Tribunal. From 6th April, employers that lose a claim at the Employment Tribunal may be liable to pay a financial penalty of up to £5000. Fines will be payable where ‘aggravating features’ are involved in the case; meaning that ultimately, it will be at the discretion of the Employment Tribunal and the various factors involved in each particular case as to whether a fine will be enforced. National Minimum Wage fines. In March 2014, the government brought in increased fines for employers that fail to comply with national minimum wage requirements. As of 6th March, employers can now face fines of up to £20,000 if they fail to pay an employee the correct minimum wage for their age group. Employers need to bear this in mind, especially in advance of increases to the national minimum wage for all workers, due to come into force in October this year.