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March 2014 - Employment Law: Important Updates

Your Quick Guide to Early 2014 Employment Changes

BEWARE – New  Financial Penalties for Employers

From February 2014 employers who do not pay their workers the National Minimum Wage will face an increased penalty of up to £20,000, in addition to the total underpayment for all workers found to be underpaid.  There are also plans to publically ‘name and shame’ employers who fail to pay the national minimum wage.

From April 2014 the Employment Tribunal will have the power to order an employer who has lost a case for breaching a worker’s rights with aggravating factors, to pay a financial penalty to the Secretary of State for any sum between £100 and £5,000.  This will be in addition to any award to the worker and any costs order imposed.

Increases to Statutory Maternity, Paternity and Adoption Pay

From 6th April 2014 the rate of statutory maternity, paternity and adoption rate will increase from £136.78 to £138.18.   For the purpose of calculating maternity allowance, the Order will come into effect on 7 April 2014.

Increase in Statutory Sick Pay

From 6 April 2014 there will be an increase in statutory sick pay from £86.70 to £87.55.

Changes to Flexible Working Rights

It is proposed that in the spring of 2014 the right to request flexible working will be extended to all employees and the current statutory procedure for considering requests will be removed. Instead employers will have a duty to consider all requests in a reasonable manner and employers will have the right to refuse requests on business grounds.

Managing Sickness Absence  - Free Occupational Health Assessments

In the spring of 2014 (date not yet confirmed) the government intends to introduce a health and work assessment and advisory service.  It will offer free occupational health assistance for employees, employers and GPs. The service will aim to provide an occupational health assessment after four weeks of sickness absence.

Early Conciliation through ACAS before a Tribunal Claim can be issued

This is a new ACAS service which will be launched on 6th April 2014.  Any employee or worker who wishes to claim against their employer will not be able to do o without first exploring settlement through ACAS.  Only if settlement cannot be reached and this is confirmed by ACAC, can a tribunal claim be issued.  This is good news for employers as following the introduction of tribunal fees in 2013, this is a further attempt to reduce the burden of claims on the Tribunal Service.  

Early conciliation will apply to the majority of workplace issues including:

  • Unfair dismissal
  • Workplace discrimination
  • Redundancy payments or disputes around selection procedures
  • Deductions from wages or unpaid notice/ holiday pay
  • Rights to time off or flexible working
  • Equal pay


Changes to the Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) Regulations 2006 (TUPE) came into force on 31st January 2014 in an attempt to simplify the current legislation. One of the main changes relates to termination on transfer due t change of location.  In this case it will not necessarily be an automatically unfair dismissal.  Other changes include consultation in companies with less than 10 employees, terms in collective agreements and the timing for consultation and provision of date.

Discrimination Questionnaire Abolished

On 6th April 2014 the headache for employers of statutory discrimination and equal pay questionnaires will be abolished and are likely to be replaced in due course with informal guidelines.  Employers will need to understand how to respond to an informal questionnaire served after the abolition.  The new proposed process will involve informal questions being raised in writing (in discrimination and equal pay claims) and thereafter consideration to be given as to how to respond or whether there is a duty to respond at all under the guidelines.

There are also further significant changes on the horizon, parental Leave rights are to be extended to parents with children up to age 18; the ability to share maternity leave between the mother and the father; and for surrogate parents to be recognised and afforded employment rights, to name just a few.

This is just a brief overview of some of the important changes in employment law that will affect all employers.  If you would like more information or have any queries at all about any of these topics or indeed any other employment related issues, please call Gill Brown or Karen Bristow on 01256 854631 or email or