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Employment Law Update

Welcome April’s Employment Law Update. This month, there’s a raft of employment law to address, including changes to maternity and paternity leave entitlements, changes to the normal minimum pension age and the introduction of ‘time to train’. We also have some interesting case examples to help you keep compliant and avoid those costly claims.

Sick leave and holiday

Sick LeaveThe following case presents a good foundation for employers who are not sure how to address the relevant legislation surrounding sick leave and holiday.

Shah had booked annual leave towards the end of the holiday year, but then was absent due to sickness at the time of his planned leave. When Shah asked if he could reschedule his holiday, his employer refused on the basis that this meant it would fall into the next holiday year. This is where it can get a little confusing. The Working Time Regulations state that holiday must be taken in the leave year in respect of which it’s due. This conflicts with the European Union Law, which does allow holiday to be carried over where illness prevents an employee from taking it in the leave year.

The European Court of Justice (ECJ) held that holiday could be postponed where an employee was sick, if necessary to the next year, and the Employment Tribunal (ET) held that it was bound by this decision.

The normal course of events would be for Shah to bring a High Court claim against the government on the basis that it had not correctly transposed the EU directive into UK law.

Religious discrimination

The issue of religious symbols in the workplace is among the most controversial areas in employment law.

Ms Eweida attended work wearing a visible silver cross on a necklace. However, when she was asked to remove or conceal the cross, she refused and was then sent home. The company’s uniform policy prohibited the wearing of any visible items of jewellery, and after this, Eweida decided to take her case to the Employment Appeals Tribunal to fight her case.

Eweida put forward her case against her employer for claims under the Employment Equality (Religion or Belief) Regulations 2003 of direct and indirect discrimination and harassment. However, the tribunal dismissed Eweida’s claims, as it held that there was no direct discrimination. Eweida had not been treated less favourably than her employer would have treated any other person, with a faith or no faith.

With regards to Eweida’s claim for indirect discrimination, the tribunal found that her employer had applied a provision, criterion or practice to the claimant. This was the requirement that any jewellery should be concealed by a uniform. However, the tribunal said this did not put Christians at a particular disadvantage compared with other persons, so this claim also failed. Eweida later presented her case to the Court of Appeal, who also dismissed the challenge to the EAT’s decision.

Full maternity pay to be extended to 20 weeks

MaternityThe European Parliament's Women's Rights Committee has voted in favour of extending maternity leave provisions through the Pregnant Workers Directive. At the moment, the European laws give pregnant women 14 weeks fully paid leave, while in the UK women are given a year off with the first six weeks on 90% pay followed by 33 weeks on statutory maternity pay.

The Committee also recommended that additional fully paid maternity leave should be granted in particularly difficult situations, for example, where there is premature childbirth, children with disabilities, teenage mothers, multiple births and births occurring within 18 months of previous births. The proposals have caused controversy, as many employers are now concerned about who will meet the cost of funding them. Currently, Statutory Maternity Pay is largely state funded, but there are fears that employers may be called upon to contribute to the cost if the proposals proceed. The full European Parliament is expected to consider the proposals in the next few months.

Some changes that are taking place this month:

Filing starter and leaver forms

HMRC have confirmed that new legislation being introduced on Tuesday 6 April 2010 means it is now a statutory requirement that employers with fewer than 50 employees file their starter and leaver forms P45, P46, P46(PEN) and P46(Expat) online from 6 April 2011.

Paternity leave and pay is extended – 6th April

Employees who are fathers or partners of mothers or adopters can now take paternity leave of up to 26 weeks’ in the first year of having their child. They’ll also be entitled to receive additional maternity pay.

Right to request time off for training  - 6th April

Employers will be required to seriously consider requests made, but will be able to refuse requests where there is a genuine business reason for doing so. The Government plans to initially introduce this to organisations with 250 or more employees from April 2010, and will extend it to cover all organisations from April 2011.

Social Security and Statutory Sick Pay Amendment Regulations 2010 – 6th April

The regulations will replace “sick notes” with “fit notes” and will change the format of the medical statement. This will not only allow the doctors to record whether or not an employee is fit for work, but they’ll also have the option to indicate when an someone “may be fit for some work now”

Normal minimum pension age rises to 55

The minimum age at which people can start to receive state pension from an occupational or personal pension scheme, rises from 50 to 55.

If you'd like to find out more information about how Ceridian can help you stay compliant, you can speak to one of our expert consultants by calling 0800 0482 737

  • 1st April 2010
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