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Employment Law Brief | March 2019


Welcome to the latest edition of our monthly employment newsletter. We keep track of the latest employment law changes so you don't have to!

  • Can you get help paying for adjustments for disabled employees?
  • Is HMRC's enforcement of the National Minimum Wage Scheme reasonable?
  • Could a four day week improve productivity?
  • Will it be easier to claim sexual harassment in the future?
  • Rise in minimum wage, SMP and other rates in April
  • Employment tribunal update: I didn't say that...

If you wouldlike to discussany of the issues raised below, please don't hesitate to contactLiz HenryorJames Austin

Can you get help paying for adjustments for disabled employees?

If you have any employees with a disability you are under a duty to make reasonable adjustments if the employee is placed at a substantial disadvantageby a provision, criterion or practice, or a physical feature of the premises or the lack of the auxiliary aid. This can involve paying for specialist equipment to help the employee carry out their role, or for adjustments to the workplace if they will assist the employee to carry out their work. Failure to make an adjustment can result in claims of disability discrimination.

Sometimes the cost of the adjustments are too great for an employer. Tribunals do consider the employer's financial resource when determining if an adjustment should have been made, but it's also worth noting that employers can get financial assistance from the Government's Access to Work scheme. The amounts available have changed over the years but from April 2019 the scheme will pay up to £59,200 per employee per annum to help with adjustments including workplace adaptions, assistive technology, transport and interpreters.

Is HMRC's enforcement of the National Minimum Wage scheme reasonable?

HMRC's Minimum Wage Enforcement Taskforce has informed Iceland Foods that they are in breach of the National Minimum Wage Regulations. Iceland had set up a Christmas saving scheme for employees which resulted in the employees' pay technically falling below the minimum wage. Middlesbrough Football Club have recently defended a tribunal claim along similar lines (the cost of season tickets had been deducted from salaries resulting in pay appearing to be below the minimum wage).

The British Retail Consortium has written to HMRC stating that it believes it's 'inappropriate' for enforcement officers to pursue businesses for technical breaches. The Government is also consulting on whether to change the rules. In the meantime though it's worth being aware that you may, inadvertently, be breaching the rules if you have a salary sacrifice scheme.

Could a four day week improve productivity?

It may sound counterintuitive but the idea has been trialled by many businesses lately. Perpetual Guardian, a financial services company in New Zealand is one such business. For a trial eight week period it put its 240 staff on a four day week, but didn't reduce their pay. It found that output increase by 20 per cent. Stress levels were also reported to have dropped.

Will it be easier to claim sexual harassment in the future?

The We've already told you about various reports which suggest that more will challenge sexual harassment at work in the future. This undoubtedly results from the #MeToo movement. In the wake of the movement various apps have also appeared which may make it easier to prove sexual harassment in the future. One such app is Vault Platform which allows employees to record incidents in a private vault which can't be deleted. The app also informs users if someone else in their workplace has reported an incident. The idea being that it will be easier to obtain support and prove an allegation.

Rise in minimum wage, SMP and other rates in April

As we informed you in our November edition, the minimum wage rates will rise in April to:

  • Apprentices: ¬£3.90
  • 16-17 year olds: ¬£4.35
  • 18-20 years olds: ¬£6.15
  • 21-24 year olds: ¬£7.70
  • National living wage: ¬£8.21

It has also been announced that:

  • Statutory sick pay will increase to ¬£94.25 per week (from ¬£92.05) from 6 April.
  • For redundancies taking place on or after 6 April a maximum weekly wage of ¬£525 will be taken into account when calculating statutory redundancy pay.
  • The maximum compensatory award for an unfair dismissal will raise to ¬£86,444.
  • From 7 April 2019, statutory maternity pay, paternity pay, shared parental pay and adoption pay will all increase from ¬£145.18 per week to ¬£146.68 per week.

I didn't say that...

Employment tribunals can be intimidating places to be. They can also be frustrating places to be when a witness denies that they said something in cross examination that you know they did. There will be less room for dispute in future as the Employment Tribunals are going to start recording hearings. Something to bear in mind if you're going to be a witness.

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