Parental Bereavement Bill receives Royal Assent

The new Parental Bereavement (Leave and Pay) Act 2018 sets out that parents who suffer the death of a child under the age of 18 or a still birth from 24 weeks of pregnancy will be entitled to two weeks paid leave. It is expected that these new rights will be incorporated into the Employment Rights Act 1996 in 2020.

At present, most employees have the statutory right to a “reasonable” amount of unpaid time off under the Employment Rights Act, this is to allow them to deal with unforeseen matters or emergencies that involve a dependant.

The death of a child can have a severe impact on a parents’ physical and emotional wellbeing. Therefore, it is crucial that employers manage this difficult time carefully and see that the employee successfully returns to work in the future.

In 2016, a survey conducted by the charity, Child Bereavement UK disclosed that less than one third of British adults who were employed at the time of their loss said they felt supported by their employer. This figure highlights the need for improvement in this area.

New legislation

This Parental Bereavement (Leave and Pay) Act 2018 initially started off as a Private Members Bill, however, it has always been supported by the Government; who expressed: “This law makes parental bereavement leave a legal right for the first time in the UKs history. Losing a child is an unimaginable trauma. I am delighted we have reached this important milestone which so many people have campaigned for.”

The act sets out that:

• A bereaved parent will be entitled to take at least 2 weeks’ leave which must be taken in the first 56 days following the child’s death. This leave should be taken in blocks of 1 week and can be continuous or discontinuous;

• Leave can be taken in respect of each child if there is more than one child involved;

• The definition of a qualifying parent may be framed (in whole or part) by reference to the employee’s care of the child before he/she died (regulations will provide more detail on the definition);

• The rules about rights during that leave (and other family leave) also apply during bereavement leave, including the right to the same terms and conditions (other than in respect of pay) and (broadly) the right to return to the same role;

• The process that should be followed i.e. the requirement to give notice and provide evidence, will be set out within the regulations;

• The rates of pay will also be determined by the regulations, but in order to receive pay (rather than be able to take leave), a parent must have at least 26 weeks’ continuous service and received pay above the lower earnings limit for the last 8 weeks.

Employer considerations

• Employers should have well written bereavement policies in the workplace, this will equip employees with certainty and security during difficult times;

• Details regarding death should be kept private under data protection laws. Employers should consider asking the employee how much information they wish to pass on to their colleagues;

• It is important that employers are aware of the risk of racial or religious discrimination claims that may come as a result of refusing an employee time off for religious observances on death. This is because certain religions require a set time to mourn – For example, Muslims have certain set mourning periods, depending on the relation of the deceased relative.

How can Employment Law Services (ELS) help?

If you are an employer who requires assistance with any of the issues raised in this blog contact us today for your free consultation 0370 218 5662.

Latest Employment Tribunal Statistics | April to June 2018

The MOJ has published the tribunal statistics for April to June 2018 and across the board the numbers are up!

Here are the key figures:

• number of single claims lodged increased by 165% compared with the same quarter last year.

• the number of single claims outstanding rose by 130% compared with the same quarter last year.

• there have been 12,400 fee refund payments made since the fee refund scheme was introduced, totalling just over £10m.

• disability discrimination cases had the largest average award (£30,700). Religious discrimination claims had the lowest average award (£5,100). The average award for unfair dismissal awards was £15,007.

This upward trend in Employment Tribunal claims is unsurprising following the abolishment of Tribunal fees in July 2017, and the figures above are reliable as April to June 2017 was the last full quarter when fees were in force.

Employers should take note of the significant increase in Employment Tribunal claims and ensure they have in place an effective risk management strategy to ensure compliance and adherence with employment legislation to prevent problems and protect their business from costly Employment Tribunal claims.

Our Fixed Fee Annual Retainer Service helps Employers to manage staff issues across all aspects of their employment, ensuring compliance and reducing risks. Find out more here:

And if you have been unfortunate enough to have been one of the 10,966 Employers who had a claim against them in the current quarter, you may find our Fixed Fee Employment Tribunal Representation Service helpful. Find out more here:

Top 5 Employment Law Questions of August 2018

1. When is it permissible for an employer to terminate the contract of employment of an employee on the grounds of ill health?

Dismissing an employee on the grounds of ill health is anything but straight forward. Lack of capability, including when assessed with reference to health can be viewed as a potentially fair reason for dismissal under s98 of the Employment Rights Act 1996.

Assuming the employer can provide enough evidence that capability is the reason behind the dismissal, it must then be followed with a fair procedure.

Over the years, case law has established 4 main elements that constitute a fair procedure, these include:

• Consultation with the employee
• A medical investigation
• Consideration of alternative employment
• Possible ill health early retirement if there is provision for this

2. What records relating to statutory maternity pay must an employer keep?

An employer must keep the following information on each employee who receives statutory maternity pay:

• The medical certificate (MAT B1) or other evidence relating to the pregnancy that has been provided by the employee
• A record of intended dates of leave advised by the employee and the date the maternity leave officially commenced, if circumstances change
• A record of weeks that SMP was paid and the amount paid each week
• A note of any weeks in the maternity pay period for which SMP was not paid and the reasons why

3. If an employee wishes to resign after disciplinary proceedings have commenced, should the employer continue the disciplinary proceedings?

If the employee’s resignation is with immediate effect, then his or her employment will terminate. There would then be nothing to gain in continuing disciplinary proceedings without the employee who is no longer employed. However, it is important that employers store the disciplinary information for up to one year following the employee’s resignation. This information will be of great use should the employee attempt to claim constructive dismissal or unlawful discrimination following the disciplinary proceedings.

4. What will happen to EU employees after Brexit?

The rules on free movement and immigration in the UK still remain unclear. This topic has been a fundamental issue of the negotiations held between the UK and the EU.

On 8 December 2017, the UK Government announced it had come to an agreement with the EU on citizens’ rights. Following this, a further agreement was reached on the terms of the implementation period. The agreement named “Settled and pre-settled status for EU Citizens and their families” is not yet law and will be subject to change depending on the final outcome of the negotiations.

The Government have implied that there will be an implementation period, which is due to commence on 29 March 2019 (the withdrawal date) and will terminate on 31 December 2020. Under this agreement, EU nationals residing in the UK before 31 2020 will meet the criteria for settled status when they have been a UK resident for 5 years. This will give them the right to work and live in the UK without a fixed time limit.

EU nationals who do not have 5 years continuous residency will be permitted to apply for a permit, which will grant them the right to remain until they reach the 5-year mark, at this point they will be able to apply for settled status.

Those who arrive in the UK throughout the implementation period will be required to register their residency if they stay for longer than 3 months.

5. Can employers still operate childcare voucher schemes following the introduction of tax-free childcare?

Yes, employers can still operate a childcare voucher scheme. However, it is important to note that new entrants will not be eligible to join the scheme from 4 October 2018.

The Government had initially announced that the scheme would end 5 April 2018. However, it was extended by 6 months in March 2018. Employees will continue to reap benefits from an existing childcare voucher scheme, as long as they continue as employees of the employer and that employer continues to offer the scheme.

How can Employment Law Services (ELS) help?

If you are an employer who requires assistance with any of the issues raised in this blog contact us today for your free consultation 0370 218 5662.

Discrimination because of religion or belief

All employers should already be aware that treating an employee differently because they are Muslim, Jewish, Christian, black, white etc can result in legal action. But, can you be accused of discriminating against another person’s philosophical belief’s?

“Religious or philosophical belief” is one of the 9 protected characteristics under the Equality Act 2010. And unlike the rest, it can be a difficult one to define. As a result of this, the Employment Tribunal has heard many interesting complaints over the years from disgruntled employees arguing that their beliefs should be protected.

Cases from the past have established that various belief systems may be afforded protection under legislation. This came after the Tribunal held that beliefs in climate change, Rastafarianism and anti-hunting should be protected. Since then, it has been extended further to protect beliefs in higher purposes of public-service broadcasting as well as mediums and their ability to contact the dead.

Yet, there have also been some memorable failures in the system when establishing that a belief meets the foundations for discrimination protection.

For example, a belief that the terrorist attacks of 9/11 and 7/7 were authorised by the British and American Governments and that there was a worldwide media conspiracy, failed on the grounds that upon objective scrutiny, such beliefs were “absurd” and not cogent.

As well as this, a belief that people should wear a remembrance poppy from 2nd November until remembrance Sunday, was not enough to be considered as weighty and substantial to qualify.

Furthermore, the objection made to same-sex couples adopting children was held as a mere opinion and not a philosophical belief.

This blog should help guide employers through this legal minefield.

Discrimination defined

Direct Discrimination

Direct discrimination occurs when a person is treated less favourably than another person because of a protected characteristic they have or are thought to have.

Discrimination by association

This is applied to age, race, religion or belief, sexual orientation, disability, gender reassignment and sex.

Perception discrimination

Applies to age, race, religion or belief, sexual orientation, disability, gender reassignment, and sex. This is direct discrimination against an individual because others think they possess a particular protected characteristic. It applies even if the person does not actually possess that characteristic.

Indirect discrimination

Applies to age, race, religion or belief, sex, sexual orientation, marriage and civil partnership, disability and gender reassignment. Indirect discrimination can occur when you have a condition, rule, policy or even a practice in your company that applies to everyone but particularly disadvantages people who share a protected characteristic. Indirect discrimination can be justified if you can show that you acted reasonably in managing your business, i.e. that it is “a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim”

What amounts to a philosophical belief under the Equality Act 2010?

In the case of Grainger PLC v Nicholson, the Employment Tribunal set out 5 aspects on how to recognise a philosophical belief and concluded that the belief should be:

• Genuinely held;
• A belief and not just an opinion;
• A belief as to a weighty and substantial aspect of human life and behaviour;
• Sufficiently cogent, serious, cohesive and important;
• A belief that is worth of respect in a democratic society and compatible with human dignity and the fundamental rights of others.

Employer considerations

Most employers will already know that they have a duty to prevent discrimination in the workplace. Failure to do so can be costly and result in increased employee turnover and absenteeism, lower employee morale and productivity and high insurance costs.

Employers should take action to prevent discrimination from occurring in the first place. To achieve this, we advise you take the following steps:

(1) Familiarise yourself with all anti-discrimination laws;
(2) Develop and roll out a diverse anti-discrimination policy;
(3) Ensure all staff are sufficiently trained on anti-discrimination;
(4) Be ready to investigate complaints of discrimination or harassment;
(5) Examine all business decisions for unintentional discrimination.

How can Employment Law Services (ELS) help?

If you are an employer who requires assistance with any of the issues raised in this blog contact us today for your free consultation 0370 218 5662.