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New Employment Law changes - have you read the small print?

View profile for Sarah Whitemore
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With UK businesses waiting for a greatly anticipated rise in economic activity, employers are being urged to make sure they have read the small print of newly introduced employment legislation.

One significant change that was introduced this month was an increase in the qualifying period of continuous employment before an unfair dismissal claim can be made by an employee.  The change sees an increase from one to two years.

The new rules, however, only apply to those who begin new employment on or after 6th April 2012, and not before – which many employers are missing.

Sarah Whitemore, employment law partner, Southampton, said: “The change is something that the Government has introduced in an attempt to boost recruitment.  The aim is so employers will have more flexibility to control staffing levels and will not be so exposed to claims of unfair dismissal as they were in the past”.

“The crucial thing for employers to note is that this does not apply to those employees who were employed before 6th April 2012.  Those employed before this date will still be entitled to claim unfair dismissal after one year of service.”

In order to avoid mistakes it is recommended that employers maintain records of the dates when each employee began work and the length of their continuous service.  This will be important if disciplinary action ever needs to be taken against an employee.

Sarah added:  “As several changes have been made to employment legislation recently, now is a good time for employers to check that all of their internal practices are keeping up with new legislation.”

Although the new rules are intended to support businesses and help stimulate economic growth, many employers are still looking at reducing staffing costs and facing problems.  Two recent employment cases highlight the challenges faced by employers when making employees redundant.

In both of these cases an ex-employee brought an unfair dismissal case against their former employer after being the only employee in the “redundancy pool”.

In the case of Capita Hartshead Limited v Byard, a single actuary was chosen for redundancy and issued a claim of unfair dismissal.  Other actuaries were employed in similar roles and the Tribunal, and later the Employment Appeals Tribunal (EAT), both held that the employee was unfairly dismissed as the redundancy pool should have included others in similar positions.  Employers will therefore find themselves open to greater scrutiny by tribunals if they include only one employee in a redundancy pool.

In the second case, Halpin v Sandpiper Books Limited, there was a different outcome.  In this case, the employee who was in the redundancy pool of one was the only one based in China, where the employer no longer required work.  The EAT said that as there were no other similarly qualified employees, the decision on the redundancy pool was reasonable and his dismissal was fair.

Sarah added: “When using redundancy pools, employers need to take care.  They should consider the position carefully and keep a written record of how decisions were made.  During the process of formal consultation, ensure that explanations as to the selections made are provided and allow the employee an opportunity to question the basis, which allows for review and possibly mediation at an early stage.”

If you would like any further information about these changes, get in touch with our Employment Team today.

ENDS

This is for information purposes only and is no substitute for, and should not be interpreted as, legal advice.  All content was correct at the time of publishing and we cannot be held responsible for any changes that may invalidate this article.