Welcome to our HR update for Autumn 2019.
In this edition, we take a look at the employment law changes, which will come into effect in April 2020, and how they may affect you. We also review some key court decisions that will impact how we behave in HR.
Upcoming employment law changes
In 2018, the Government published its “vision for the future of the UK labour market”, the Good Work Plan, which builds on its earlier response to the Taylor Review.
A majority of the changes discussed in the Good Work Plan will come into effect in April 2020. Some of the core points, which you may want to consider over the coming months are:
- Employers will have to provide a written statement of Employment Terms on the first day of work, rather than within two months as it is now, and there will be changes to the required content;
- The time required to break a period of continuous service will rise from one week to four weeks;
- All workers will have a right to request a more stable contract after 26 weeks of continuous service– i.e. a fixed working pattern if they currently have a variable one;
- The holiday pay reference period will be extended from 12 to 52 weeks. This will ensure that workers with seasonal and atypical roles can benefit from their full holiday pay entitlement;
- Parental bereavement leave will come into effect, which provides at least two weeks’ leave for employees who have lost a child under the age of 18.
There are more updates to come, so make sure you keep up-to-date with the changes to ensure your business is compliant with the new legislation when it comes into effect.
Interesting recent cases that may affect what we do in HR
In a recent case, Upton-Hansen Architects Ltd v Gyftaki, it has been shown that suspension can be a breach of the implied duty of trust and confidence.
To summarise, Ms Gyftaki had to travel abroad to tend to an urgent family matter and requested additional leave as she had run out of annual leave. Although she believed it had been approved, her manager contacted her the night before she was due to travel to reject the request. Instead, Ms Gyftaki suggested taking unpaid leave, as she could not postpone. Upon her return, she had been suspended “pending investigation of an allegation that she had taken the absence without authority”.
Suspension should only be used in certain incidents and must always be for as short a period as possible and the reasons well communicated. In this instance, the tribunal found there was no "real evidence" supporting the employer’s stance and that the reasons it gave to the employee for the suspension had not been conveyed to them either orally or in the suspension letter.
The key point to take from this is always suspend with care, and under the guidance of a HR professional.
Dismissal for poor attendance
Another case highlighted the areas to be aware of when dealing with employees who have repeated sickness absences.
An employee had missed a significant amount of work due to prolonged sickness and the company dismissed them under “Some other substantial reason” (SOSR, which means that it was not related to conduct or performance etc). Consequently, the employee took the business to court, but lost their claim as the court found that it was reasonable for a manager to genuinely lose confidence in an employee who was unable to maintain a good attendance record and provide ‘reliable attendance’. When dismissing for reasons related to absence, employers must be able to demonstrate the detrimental effects that the absences are having on the business.
The key point to take away from this case is that it is vital to have a strong sickness absence policy, monitor sickness, get professional health opinions and follow your own company processes.
Gerald Edelman HR Services
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