Spring HR Update 2012

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Spring has finally arrived and with it the usual increases to statutory payments plus some adjustments to employment legislation. You may also be aware of a couple of rather large events affecting the UK this year – The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations and The London Olympics 2012. In this update we offer some guidance on how to approach the challenges that these two respective events will bring to your workforce.

But lets start with the most immediate changes:

Increases to Statutory Payments – 1 April 2012

The following statutory payments will increase with effect from 1 April 2012:

 

2011

2012

Statutory Adoption Pay  

   128.73

   135.45

Statutory Maternity Pay 

128.73

135.45

Statutory Paternity Pay 

128.73

135.45

Statutory Sick Pay (increases from 6 April 2012) 

81.60

85.85


Qualifying Period for Claiming Unfair Dismissal - 6 April 2012

The qualifying period for unfair dismissal claims is increasing to 2 years from 6 April 2012. Draft legislation confirmed that this will affect all new starters hired on or after 6 April. Employees whose continuous employment began on or before 5 April 2012 will however still be subject to the 1-year qualifying period. This extension also applies to the right to request a statement of reasons for dismissal. As previously, the qualifying period for unfair dismissal will not apply to those who make a complaint about health and safety, or who claim to be a whistle-blower or who claim to have been victim of discrimination.

Changes to RIDDOR reporting – 6 April 2012

The period of incapacity that triggers an employer’s duty to report workplace injuries will increase from 3 to 7 days with effect from 6 April 2012, as will the period within which the employer has to make that report, which goes up from 10 to 15 days.

Changes to income tax thresholds come into force – 6th April 2012

The income tax personal allowance increases by £630 on 6th April 2012, bringing it to £8,105. The threshold at which employees pay the higher income tax rate of 40% is reduced to £34,371 (from £35,001).

The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Additional Bank Holiday - 5th June 2012

An additional bank holiday has been awarded in the UK on Tuesday 5th June to celebrate the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee. In addition the usual Whitsun bank holiday at the end of May has been moved to Monday 4th June – meaning there are now two bank holidays in the week commencing Monday 4th June 2012.

Many of you will be wondering whether you are obliged to allow staff this additional time off when the Government declares additional bank holidays and, if so, whether you have to pay employees. Quite apart from your contractual or legal liability, you may first want to consider what stance your company wants to take on this. It’s worth bearing in mind that disgruntled staff can cause you considerable problems and thereby expensive management time sorting out disputes.

Under UK law, employees do not have an automatic right to time off on bank holidays – they are entitled to time off only as agreed with their employer. All employees are entitled to 5.6 weeks’ annual leave. This equates to 28 days holiday each year (full time staff) (pro rata for part time staff).

Although the 28 day entitlement is generally seen as 20 days leave (4 weeks) plus 8 bank holidays, the Working Time Regulations 1998 do not stipulate when the 28 days must be taken i.e. it isn’t specified that they must be used to cover bank holidays and therefore each case will depend on what the employee’s contract of employment says.

For example, if your contract states that the employee is entitled to 20 days annual leave plus statutory, bank and public holidays, then your employee should be given paid time off on 5 June as it is a bank holiday. However, if the contract states that the employee is entitled to take named bank holidays or "the usual" bank holidays, then this doesn’t mean that the employee has the right to an additional day’s paid leave. Likewise, if the contract states 28 days total annual leave or 28 days including bank holidays, the employee has no right to an additional days paid holiday – the additional bank holiday comes out of the overall leave entitlement.

Remember that part timers cannot be left out of this equation. To ensure you do not discriminate against your part-time staff you should pro-rate the overall bank holiday entitlement based on the number of hours or days they work in each leave year.

The Olympic Games – London 2012 – July to September 2012

The London Olympic Games are almost upon us and as the excitement starts to build so does the realisation that there may be a few issues to consider – particularly for those who live or work in London. From 15 July to 12 September 2012, the Olympic and Paralympic Games will take place in London and in other parts of the UK and it has to be expected that there will be an impact on our everyday lives as a result.

There are a number of workforce capacity issues which need to be considered. For example, your firm’s ability to deliver its usual service may be affected by the following:

  • Volunteering; staff may well have volunteered to work at an Olympic venue during the Games and currently be undergoing training;
  • Attendance at the Games; many staff may well request leave to watch the Olympic events either as ticket holders or to attend the large screen events being held;
  • Staying out of Town; high numbers of staff who wish to take leave or work from home to avoid London during the period of the main Olympic Games;
  • Travel disruption & Access; it’s being quoted there will be the equivalent of 5 rush hours per day across some London transport networks during the Games, meaning travel to and from work and business trips across the City will be affected; and
  • Childcare issues; staff may find their usual childcare arrangements are disrupted due to travel problems or any one of the above issues.

Your employees will fall largely into two groups:

  • those who plan to take time off during the Games because they will be spectators or volunteers; and
  • those who have no plans to take time off during the Games but may either hope to watch some TV or internet coverage while at work or may wish to alter their working hours to allow them to watch events at home. Alternatively there will be some who have no interest in the Games whatsoever and will be irritated by any perceived favouritism shown to those with sporting interests. There will also be those who want to work but wish to avoid any potential travel problems.
  • Things for you to consider as the countdown to the Games continues:
  • manage attendance; you may want to draw up some guidelines to ensure that you are fair to all - maybe have a 'first come, first served' policy for booking leave;
  • work flexibly; flexible working may be something to consider as a temporary measure over the period of the Games. The journeys into work for those who work in the City may well be much longer, consider how you will get around this. You may permit people to work from home or stagger their start/finish times. Either way, it is important that you communicate with staff so that they know what the options are for them and plans can be agreed in advance. Ensure that agreed arrangements are documented, just so that there is no confusion about what’s been agreed;
  • deal with performance issues; there may be problems around staff watching lengthy coverage via their computers. Again, it is best to plan in advance – let staff know what will be acceptable in terms of viewing. You may want to plan for popular events in advance – possibly giving staff access to a TV during agreed times;
  • volunteering can help your business; it can help develop your employees' skills - but you obviously need to protect your business interests. Ensure you understand the legal rights of volunteers and the responsibilities you have towards them. Many volunteers will be agreeing to ten days work, with three days training prior to the Games. You may prefer that volunteers use their annual leave entitlement to cover their absence, using unpaid leave if they have insufficient annual leave to cover their absence. Or alternatively you may decide to match an employee's leave with special leave. Above all ensure you treat all volunteers consistently.

Social Media

There are more and more cases now reaching the employment tribunals in the UK involving the use of social media. Social media blurs the distinction between work and personal life and staff at all levels are finding themselves in hot water as a result of comments or pictures they have posted on sites such as Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn.

Unfortunately it has been demonstrated through these cases that an employer would be foolish merely to trust its employees not to post anything inappropriate regarding their employers on Facebook and other social media. Even a company such as Apple, which employs technology-literate staff, still covers these issues in its policies and procedures and doesn’t presume or expect that staff will know where the line lies.

Many companies are perfectly happy for staff to access social media sites whilst at work and indeed there are positive uses for the likes of Twitter and LinkedIn. However any employer that is particularly concerned about damage to its reputation from Facebook posts and use of other social media should emphasise the importance of this to its staff. Without a specific policy in place companies may find it difficult to impose disciplinary sanctions – including dismissal – where it considers that the employee has posted something inappropriate. A policy on the use of social media will provide a strong defence to any claims from staff that they were unaware of the company’s policy on such matters. The vast majority of employment law specialists will recommend that you not only have a social media policy in place but you also ensure that staff have read it and been trained on its content.

Throgmorton can assist you with putting a social media policy in place to set out firm guidelines regarding employees’ use of Facebook and other social media in connection with their employment. We can also organise workshops which will take your staff through the reasons behind why such a policy is necessary.

Few staff realise that it’s not just the company that can be named in a claim alleging discrimination – individual staff members at any level can also be named in an employment tribunal and sued for compensation. 



28 March 2012 



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About Throgmorton: Throgmorton is one of the leading companies specialising in the provision of financial and administrative outsourcing to the UK SME financial services sector.

The information in this notice is intended for general guidance only. Throgmorton does not accept any responsibility for losses incurred to any person acting or refraining to act as a result of the information in this notice. Advice should be taken in the context of specific circumstances.

Copyright 2012 Throgmorton UK Limited. All rights reserved. Throgmorton is a trading name of Throgmorton UK Limited a company registered in England and Wales (company no 3853848) having its registered office at 4th Floor, Reading Bridge House, George Street, Reading, Berkshire, RG1 8LS.