What do employers need to know and do this February

Written on 6 Feb 2015

February is already proving a busy month with the holiday pay case of Lock back in the Employment Tribunal (see here) and the Advocate General delivering his opinion in the long running Woolworths case (see here).

Advocate General advocates an at “one establishment” approach

The Advocate General of the European Court of Justice (“ECJ”) has handed down his opinion in the long running “Woolworths” case on whether the trigger for collective redundancies applies to proposed redundancies just at one establishment or across all an employer’s establishments. The Advocate General determined that a one establishment approach was intended by the applicable European Directive. We must now wait to see what the ECJ now decides later this year. See our alert here.

Shared parental leave and other family friendly rights 

The impact of the new shared parental leave rules is now very much on employers doorsteps (see here and here). Employers are raising a number of interesting queries on how the new rules will operate in practice, as well as looking at whether or not to enhance shared parental pay (and if so how) and implementing a shared parental leave policy and amendments to other family leave policies (including changes to adoption leave and the extension of unpaid parental leave). Please do not hesitate to contact your usual OC Contact if you have any queries on this new right.

Some good news for employers is that as well as ACAS’ guidance (see here) and the technical guidance for employers issued by the Department of Business Innovation and Skills (“BIS”) (see here), BIS has now launched an online calculator to help parents calculate their leave and pay entitlements for maternity, paternity and shared parental leave (see here). 

Holiday pay

The ET hearing in the Lock case provides a timely reminder that holiday pay is still very much a live issue (see here). Please do not hesitate to contact your usual OC Contact to discuss your approach to holiday pay and any changes which you may now need to make in light of the court rulings on this issue.

 Fit for Work

The Government’s new Fit for Work Service is now up and running. It essentially consists of two parts:

  • An advice service which aims to support people in work with health conditions and those who are off sick. It provides free, expert and impartial work-related health advice via the website (fitforwork.org) and telephone on 0800 032 6235.
  • A referral service which is in the process of being rolled out with a view to it being fully implemented across all regions by the end of May 2015.

The Government has now published guidance documents for both employers and employees on the new service available here and here. Please contact your usual OC Contact for further advice on the new service and how this will impact on your sickness absence policies.

Right to be accompanied

ACAS has issued a revised draft Code of Practice on Disciplinary and Grievance Procedures (see here) incorporating changes to the right to be accompanied following an EAT decision in Toal v GB Oils Ltd that an employer could not reject a worker’s chosen companion on the grounds of reasonableness, where that companion is a trade union officer, certified trade union representative or fellow worker. ACAS has indicated that it will now also be amending its related guidance to reflect this position. The revised Code has been laid before Parliament and should be in force during March 2015.  For further details click here.

Obesity

At the end of last year, the ECJ delivered its judgement in the Danish case of Karsten Kaltoft v Municipality of Billund ruling that obesity is not a protected ground in its own right and will only come within the protection of disability discrimination rules where the person in question suffers “a limitation which results in particular from long-term physical, mental or psychological impairments which in interaction with various barriers may hinder the full and effective participation of the person concerned in professional life on an equal basis with other workers”. The ECJ did not repeat the indication by the AG that only those with a BMI of over 40 were likely to come within the disability discrimination protection. See our alert here on the implications of this decision for employers.