Some of you might be wondering what employment law developments will make the headlines in the first half of 2015. Here’s what we think.
At the end of 2014 we were in the unprecedented situation that an employment law case was front page news. Every news programme was talking about holiday pay calculations and overtime following the ruling in Bear Scotland Ltd and others v Fulton and others. In response, on 8 January 2015, the Government introduced the Deduction from Wages (Limitation) Regulations 2014 capping the liability for holiday pay shortfalls that have unknowingly accrued over the years due to the exclusion of overtime from holiday pay calculations. From 1 July 2015 most claims for unlawful deductions from wages will be limited to monies owing from the last two years, this will restrict not only holiday pay claims but also claims for other debts due from the employer. Good news for employers but it could possibly lead to a peak in claims being issued in the first half of this year before the cap becomes effective.
Staying with the holiday pay theme the long awaited case of Lock v British Gas Trading Limited is due to be heard on 4 February 2015. In this case the European Court of Justice has already directed that the employee should not lose out on commission when taking holiday, it will now be for the Employment Judge to decide if that can be achieved under the Working Time Regulations 1998 and if so how it can be achieved.
On the following day, 5 February 2015, the Advocate General is due to give his opinion in the landmark ‘Woolworths case’*. This case fundamentally changed the UK law. Previously employers had been required to carry out collective consultation with employee representatives where it was proposed to make 20 or more employees redundant at a single establishment in a 90 day period. Following the judgment the requirement to carry out collective consultation was extended to where the employer proposed to make 20 or more employees redundant within the entire organisation in a 90 day period. The reference to one establishment was in effect deleted from the statute. Will the European Court reinstate it? Multisite employers throughout the country will be anxiously waiting to see what will be announced.
In March 2015 the Court of Appeal will be asked to decide how a day’s pay should be calculated for a salaried employee. If it is based on calendar days it is just 1/365th of their annual wage but if based on working days it can be as much as 1/260th of their pay. It is an issue that could have an impact in a wide variety of situations but in Hartley v King Edward VI College it is being claimed that too much money was deducted from teachers’ wages following a day’s strike.
April 2015 looks like it will be a very busy month for HR professionals as the introduction of the new system of shared parental leave has been described as the biggest change to family friendly legislation for decades. Qualifying employees may agree with their partners to share statutory rights to time off and pay in order to care for their child. Parents will be able to decide who will take the leave and pay or may opt to take the time off together. However, there are technical procedural requirements and a number of questions still remain regarding the take up of the new leave rights.
Further family friendly changes will see adoption rights improved as they are brought more into line with maternity rights and ordinary unpaid parental leave extended so that it can be taken up to the child’s 18th birthday, rather than the child’s 5th birthday.
April is also the month when Employment Tribunal compensation limits will be increased and all statutory payments revised including maternity pay.
In May 2015 it’s the General Election, the result of which could be decisive in respect of a number of employment rights including whether the Employment Tribunal Fee system will remain in place in its current form.
All in all 2015 looks set to be a busy year for HR professionals, watch this space for further developments throughout the year.
*USDAW v Ethel Austin and Lyttle v Bluebird