With major employment reforms coming into force just next month, a local solicitor is sharing advice and guidance and is urging employers across the region to adapt their businesses now to reflect the changes and avoid possible penalties.
Jemma Jones, Solicitor at Shropshire-based PCB Solicitors, has been sharing information with business owners about significant employment law reforms which are being introduced in April, including the new power of the tribunal which can see employers fined up to £5,000, in addition to any employee compensation award if they lose a legal case.
“This is one of the most significant changes and it represents even more financial implications for employers, following the introduction of employment tribunal fees in 2013 where employers can be ordered to pay fees of up to £1,200 if they lose a case,” Jemma explained. “From April, the Employment Tribunal will have the power to order an employer who has lost a case to pay a financial penalty to the Secretary of State, which can be anything from £100 to £5,000. The penalty will be imposed on employers who have breached any of the workers’ rights, and the breach has one or more aggravating features.”
According to Jemma, the introduction of the provision is to ensure that all employers fulfil their obligations in respect of their employer rights, and was launched to act as a deterrent to reduce deliberate and repeated breaches of employment law on the part of employers, focusing on malicious or negligent behaviour, and not honest mistakes.
“It’s believed that this reform will encourage employers to settle matters prior to a full and final hearing, as the risk and costs are significantly reduced in an out-of-court settlement, especially if there is a chance of a further £5,000 penalty,” she added. “But employers might feel aggravated at the introduction of this provision, arguing it’s an exertion of undue pressure which forces them to settle an unmeritorious claim.
“Other changes due to come into law in the next six months include extending the right to flexible working to all employees, increasing statutory maternity, paternity, and adoption pay, as well as a proposed introduction of a health, work assessment and advisory service offering free occupational health assistance for employees, employers, and GPs. In addition, early tribunal conciliation will be introduced, whereby claimants will be able to lodge details of their proposed employment tribunal claim with ACAS in the first instance.
“Employers are tasked with keeping up-to-date with numerous policies and procedures, and investing and developing their staff’s knowledge of dealing with grievance and disciplinary procedures can ensure they don’t face costly employment claims. Employment law is constantly evolving and employers need to keep up-to-date with such changes. Ensuring correct policies and procedures are in place can cause confusion or a headache, so I’d urge any employer who would like advice on how to protect themselves and approach the changes, to get in touch with me on 01743 237107." Jemma concluded.
For further information about PCB Solicitors’ complete range of legal services, please contact the Shrewsbury Head office on 01743 248148 or visit the website via the link.
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