Employment Law Update
Welcome to March's Employment Law Update. This month, the spotlight is on the controversial employment tribunal reform and changes to the tribunal compensations limits. That's not all, we also take a look at employers' duty to employees with disabilities.
Earlier this year, the Government published its proposals for workplace disputes. These proposals are currently under consultation (ending on 20 April 2011), and if implemented, will have a clear impact on employment practices in the UK.
The proposals, which are currently under consultation, come under 4 main headings:
- Reduce number of claims lodged
- Encouraging settlements
- Shortening tribunal hearings
- Improving case management
This is where it gets tougher for employers - any employer who loses a claim will be expected to pay a fine (on top of the compensation for the employee) of 50% of the award made. This money will go directly to fund the tribunal system.
New Compensation Limits
The tribunal compensation limits have increased, in line with inflation, for all dismissals on or after 1st February 2011.
The main changes are that the maximum week's pay for redundancy payments (or a basic award) has increased to £400, leading to a maximum award of £12,000 (30 years x £400). The maximum compensatory award for unfair dismissal has increased to £68,400.
Duty to Make Reasonable Adjustments
Where an employee has a disability that puts him or her at a substantial disadvantage, an employer is obliged to investigate whether reasonable adjustments can be made to lessen the disadvantage. It is not enough for an employer to say that the employee never made any suggestions for adjustments. They are matters which are within the employer's knowledge, not the employee's.
In British Midland Airways v Hamed, a flight attendant with a knee injury was not permitted to do an administrative job, as these were reserved for pregnant employees who could not work as flight crew. It was therefore proposed to dismiss her on capability grounds.
The Employment Appeal Tribunal stated that if an employer is considering a capability dismissal because a disabled employee can no longer do the job for which they are employed, they must consider the full range of jobs available in their organisation, even if training would be required for the employee to move jobs.
Employers also need to be aware that if an employee is on long-term sick leave, firstly this may be tantamount to a disability, and secondly, it may be possible for that employee to be working again if the employer has other different roles (perhaps more sedentary roles if the employee has mobility issues) that would mean the employee no longer has to be on sick leave