On 6th April important changes to employment law came into effect. Sadly many firms are in the process of releasing staff by reason of redundancy at present and the rules on this have changed.
The Government has scrapped its statutory grievance and disciplinary procedures from 6th April – rules introduced in 2004 which required very particular steps to be gone through before dismissing an employee. This meant even if it was fair to dismiss the individual, if the rules were not exactly followed, payments had to be made to the employee in compensation. Instead of leading to fewer tribunal disputes, the 2004 rules led to more. Instead, ACAS has now published a Code of Practice to take the place of the 2004 rules. It is not compulsory to follow the code, but failure to do so can be taken into account by employment tribunals, and they may increase payouts by up to 25% if the code is not followed.
Another change, this one from 1st April, is on holidays. The statutory minimum annual leave entitlement has gone from 4.8 weeks, or 24 days, for those on a five day week, to 5.6 weeks, or 28 days. So full time workers are now entitled to 28 days’ holiday a year including a bank holiday (which at present works out as 20 working days and 8 bank and statutory holidays).
Companies will now be penalised harder (including an automatic £5k fine) if they do not pay the minimum wage. Also since 6th April all employees can request flexible working to care for children under 16 (previously limited to the under 6 or disabled children under 18). This is not a right to work flexibly. As before, it is merely a right to request it, but employers must follow procedures and give it due consideration.
Finally statutory maternity pay increases on 6th April from £117.18 per week to £123.06. Statutory sick pay increases from £75.40 to £79.15.