Employment News

Employee Travel Time

In the Employment Appeal Tribunal case of Mrs J Whittlestone v BJP Home Support Limited (UK ETA/0128/13/BA) the Claimant was employed by BJP to provide care services to clients. Mrs Whittlestone was paid at the rate of £6.35 per hour for the time which she actually spent providing care at the home of the service users.

Mrs Whittlestone claimed that she was entitled to be paid the national minimum wage in respect of time spent travelling between the service users’ homes.

The Judge at Tribunal stated that “the simple question for the Tribunal to ask in the Claimants case is whether the travelling between service users' premises was incidental to the duties she was carrying out in the course of her time work”.

The Tribunal found that travelling was purely incidental to the duties carried out in the course of the Claimant’s work for the Respondents and therefore could not be treated as being “time work”. The Claimant was therefore not entitled to be paid for the period of time during which she was travelling.

However, at the Employment Appeal Tribunal the Honourable Mr Justice Langstaff (President), decided that the Tribunal at first instance had not dealt with the question of assignments. The work which the Claimant was doing should properly be regarded on the facts as “assignment work”, and the travelling time which she spent should have been remunerated. Mrs Whittlestone was on a rota and obliged to visit each service user in turn during the course of the day, and there inevitably was travelling time between them.

This case suggests that where an employee travels from one work related appointment to another they must be paid at least the national minimum wage.

Submitted By: February 2014.

‘Cyber-skiving’ (Wasting work time surfing the Internet or writing and receiving private emails) or worse…

For a business, Cyber-skiving by employees can be a real problem in terms of lost productivity.

It is important that employers set out clear rules concerning email and internet use at work. Rules should make it clear what kind of use of email and Internet is permitted, and the likely sanction for misuse of email and Internet.

Remember, without stating that accessing pornography is a gross misconduct offence, an Employer will have great difficulty dismissing an employee for it.

We can assist with policy drafting.

Submitted: October 2013.

Employers’ Liability

From 31 July 2013 all employers’ liability claims by employees against employers with a value of up to £25,000 are managed through an online system called the “Claims Portal”.

The Portal is likely to reduce the costs of litigation, but the requirements of this system are strict. Insurers now have 30 days to confirm whether liability is admitted or denied rather than 90 days. The responsibility is on employers to respond to employee personal injury claims, via their own insurers, much more rapidly.

It is vital to have in place not just sufficient risk assessment and to implement measures to help avoid accidents at work, but also detailed reporting systems, and proper systems of investigation so that information is quickly available.

Submitted: August 2013.

Unfair Dismissal (Variation of the Compensatory Award) Order 2013

This law came into force on 29 July 2013. It limits the compensatory element available in most unfair dismissal claims made from 29 July 2013 to the lower of either (1) £74,200 or (2) 52 weeks’ pay. There are few employees who will be in category (1) and therefore this will be considered good news for employers.

Submitted: August 2013.

Employment Tribunal Fees

Last year we mentioned the likely introduction of Employment Tribunal Fees. The fee structure has now been introduced and the details are as follows:-

If in receipt of benefits, or if your income is below a certain level, there may be a fee remission or exemption. Otherwise there is now an Issue Fee and, if a Hearing is necessary, a Hearing Fee.

The level of fee depends on the type of claim.

“Type A” includes unpaid wages and redundancy payments.

“Type B” includes unfair dismissal, discrimination claims and "whistle blowing".

For Type A claims the Issue Fee is £160.00. For Type B claims the Issue Fee is £250.00

The Issue Fee is paid when the Claim Form is either posted to the Tribunal or submitted online. The Hearing Fees are £230.00 for Type A claims and £950.00 for Type B claims. The Employment Tribunal will send out a letter called “Notice to Pay” advising of the need to make the Hearing Fee payment.

Other fees in the Employment Tribunal will be payable in situations where the Tribunal is asked to reconsider a decision that is made following a Final Hearing. For Type A claims this extra fee will be £100.00. For Type B claims the extra fee is £350.00.

If a claim is successful the Employment Judge can order the Respondent to repay the Claimant the Issue and Hearing Fee.

The introduction of fees in the Employment Tribunal is a highly contentious issue and Unison are currently challenging the decision to introduce fees in the High Court. We will keep you posted.

Should you require assistance with bringing or responding to a claim in the Employment Tribunal then please contact our employment specialist Kevin Wigley.

Submitted: August 2013.

Flexible Parental Leave and Flexible Working For All

The Government have just announced that there will be an extension of the right to request flexible working to all employees and a new system of flexible parental leave.

Some of the details include:

  • If mother returns to work before the end of the 52-week maternity leave period, then up to 50 weeks of untaken maternity leave can be taken as flexible parental leave, to be shared by the mother and her partner.
  • Parents who adopt will be eligible for the new flexible parental leave.
  • Unpaid parental leave will increase in March 2013 from 13 to 18 weeks.
  • The age limit on parental leave will increase from 5 years to 18 years in 2015.
  • The right to request flexible working will apply to all businesses regardless of their size and the Government expect all legislation to be implemented by 2015.
  • It is clearly very important for businesses to be aware of these extended rights in order to avoid potential discrimination claims.

Submitted By: 13th November 2012.

Qualifying Period for Unfair Dismissal to Increase

On 6 April 2012, the qualifying period for an Employee to bring an unfair dismissal claim will increase from 1 year to 2 years. According to the Government, this increase will "provide more time for Employers and Employees to resolve difficulties, give Employers greater confidence in taking on people and ease the burden on the Employment Tribunal process". It is understood that this change will not be retrospective. This means that those Employees who started before 6 April 2012 will remain able to claim unfair dismissal after 1 year of continued service.

Other Changes

It is proposed that as of April 2012 Employment Judges will hear unfair dismissal claims alone in the Tribunal, unless they direct otherwise. The maximum Deposit Order is likely to increase from £500.00 to £1,000.00. The maximum amount of a Costs Order, which a Tribunal may award, (in favour of a legally represented party) is likely to increase from £10,000.00 to £20,000.00. Furthermore witness statements are to be taken "as read" unless the Tribunal directs otherwise.

There are other proposals on the horizon, in particular, the introduction of Employment Tribunal fees similar to the County Court system.

Submitted By: 20th January 2011.