Employment law changes from 6 April 2014

A number of changes to UK employment law took effect from 6 April 2014.  The most notable is the introduction of an Acas conciliation service that will be a prerequisite to any person wanting to bring a tribunal claim.  This is likely to reduce further the number of tribunal claims being made (following the reduction seen since the introduction of fees required to bring a claim).

Acas conciliation

The Acas early conciliation procedure has been introduced.  This means that if an employee intends to lodge an Employment Tribunal claim, he or she will first have to notify Acas.  The requirement to notify Acas first before lodging a claim will only be mandatory for claims presented on or after 6 May 2014.  The procedure can be used on a voluntary basis between 6 April and 5 May.

Acas will contact the potential claimant or representative within two working days of receiving the form to gather basic information on the dispute itself and provide information about early conciliation.  The case will then be passed to a conciliator who will aim to make contact with both parties and talk through the issues to see if a solution can be found.  Early conciliation gives both parties up to a calendar month to explore the resolution of their dispute with the conciliator’s assistance.  This period can be shorter or may be extended by up to 14 days according to need.

If early conciliation is unsuccessful, the employee will have at least one calendar month in which to submit a tribunal claim.

Employment tribunals

Employment tribunals have been given the power to impose a financial penalty on employers who lose at tribunal of 50% of any financial award, with a minimum threshold of £100 and a maximum cap of £5,000.

Employment tribunal compensation limits have increased. For example, the maximum compensatory award for unfair dismissal has risen from £74,200 to £76,574.

Pay and benefits

Several social security benefits and payments have increased by 1%. For example:

  • The rate of statutory sick pay has increased to £87.55 (up from £86.70);
  • The rate of statutory maternity pay has increased to £138.18 (up from £136.78);
  • The rates of statutory adoption pay, statutory paternity pay, and additional statutory paternity pay have increased to £138.18 (up from £136.78).

Sickness absence

The government has abolished the statutory sick pay record-keeping obligations and allows employers to keep records in a flexible manner more suited to their organisation.

The Percentage Threshold Scheme, which enables employers to partially recover statutory sick pay from HMRC, is expected to be abolished.

Tax and National Insurance Contributions

Legislation will be introduced that reduces employer NICs bills each year by entitling every business and charity to a £2,000 Employment Allowance.

Tom Redfern