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Employment Law in 2014: Changes Ahead

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There have been substantial changes to the employment law sector this year, but next year is set to see even more changes being implemented. One of the big news items is the proposal to abolish the service provision section of the Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) Regulations (TUPE).

This decision was taken after a consultation in which the majority of respondents expressed their concern that the abolition would create uncertainty regarding TUPE’s application with regard to service changes.

There will be slight changes that will provide a certain amount of flexibility for employers to vary terms and conditions following a TUPE transfer, but any activities that are continued following a service provision change must be essentially or fundamentally the same as previous activities for TUPE to apply.

Other changes to TUPE are designed to ease the pressure exerted on employers by the completion of discrimination questionnaires. These questionnaires were originally designed to aid HR teams in the gathering of information for assessment as to whether or not a claim may exist, but their purpose has been diverted, so this change will be a relief to many HR departments across the land who have spent many an hour completing them.

A big change that will be very welcome for many employees, but may prove difficult to work for some employers, particularly small to mid-sized companies, is that the right to request flexible working is to be extended. Currently, this right is available to parents and carers, but the changes will allow anyone who has 26 weeks’ service to ask.

Employers are not obligated to honour such requests, but they are to be seriously considered and good reason relating to ‘business grounds’ is needed for flexible working to be denied. Flexible working can be a benefit to many businesses and it is well recognised that when employees are able to work flexibly, their productivity usually goes up. The maxim that a happy workplace is a productive workplace certainly seems to hold sway in this instance.

More changes due to be implemented in 2014 include the introduction of ‘early conciliation’. From April of next year, all claimants will need to notify ACAS before lodging a claim to the tribunal. Conciliation will be offered in the first instance, with the claimant only able to proceed to lodging a tribunal claim once this avenue has been exhausted.

Sickness absence is also subject to changes in the law, with the introduction of a health and work assessment advisory service, offering occupational health assistance for GPs, employees and employers alike.

It’s not always easy to keep abreast of the changes in employment law, but the consequences of a failure to keep updated can be substantial. The implementation of changes to the law is set to continue into 2015, with proposed changes to parental leave and adoption leave due to come into effect, so it is vital that employers are up to date so that breaches of employee rights are not inadvertently made. At Cooper Lomaz, we will do our utmost to update you in our newsletters to ensure you stay ahead of the curve.

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