New employment laws result in changes to the workplace

New employment laws result in changes to the workplace
Osborne Clarke

The recent changes to employment legislation mean that there are likely to be significant changes to the governance of the workplace during 2013. This, in conjunction with our requisite compliance with EU law and the recent case law, is indicative of a changing environment for workers.

One of the most notable changes to employment law concerns the decision regarding equal pay claims. Rather than being subject to the six month time limit in which to bring a claim in an Employment Tribunal, employees can bring a claim in the High Court providing it is within the six year time limit without needing to justify their reasons for missing the Tribunal time limit. The decision benefits employees, particularly if evidence of unequal pay only becomes apparent after the six month Employment Tribunal time limit.

The case of Welton v Deluxe Retail Ltd resulted in employers being subject to more stringent requirements regarding dismissals or changes to terms of contracts. In addition to specifying an economical, technical or organisation reason for the change or dismissal, employers must show that it resulted in a need to change the workforce, that it affects the employee in question and that reason is more than ‘minimal’. This increases employee protection and ensures employers do not abuse the right to dismiss employees or make changes to their contracts.

The recent case of Redfearn v United Kingdom [2012] in the European Court of Human Rights has indicated a need for change to our national law. In order to comply with the decision, it is expected that the Government will introduce measures to outlaw discrimination based on political beliefs or opinion. Similarly, the Supreme Court based their decision in British Airways PLC v Williams and Others [2012] on an EU Directive and ruled when an employee’s wages are normally comprised of commission and bonuses this should be taken into account when calculating their holiday pay.

Although there have been significant changes to employment law during 2012, there are still issues waiting to be resolved. For example, there is on-going discussion regarding the appropriate time for collective consultations to start under the Trade Unions and Labour (Consolidation) Act 1992. The differing terms used in TULCRA and the Collective Redundancies Directive have left this open to interpretation but further clarification may be necessary. Similarly, the proposed changes to employment law, such as allowing employees to give up their rights in favour of additional remuneration, have caused much discussion. It is evident, therefore, that as the nature of the workplace changes, employment law will continue to evolve accordingly with many changes expected to take place throughout 2013.

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