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Statutory Payment Annual Increases

Maternity, paternity and adoption pay increases

The standard rate of statutory maternity, paternity and adoption pay will increase from £128.73 to £135.45 per week from 1 April 2012.

Statutory sick pay increases

Statutory sick pay will increase from £81.60 to £85.85 per week from 6 April 2012.

Statutory redundancy payments increase

The maximum amount of a week's pay used to calculate a statutory redundancy payment increases from £400 to £430 on 1 February 2012.

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Are employees entitled to an additional bank holiday for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee?

It’s time get the bunting out again as the UK celebrates The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee this summer.  Proof indeed that working beyond 65 is possible!

To mark the celebrations, the government has announced an additional bank holiday on Tuesday 5 June 2012 and the movement of the late May bank holiday to Monday 4 June 2012.   The extended bank holiday weekend applies to England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Are employees entitled to the additional bank holiday? 

Employees do not have an automatic right to paid time off on a bank holiday, therefore to determine whether or not employees are entitled to a day off, the employer should first consider the employees’ contractual terms as follows: 

  • If the employment contract states that the employee’s annual leave entitlement is a certain number of days plus bank holidays, he or she will be entitled to the additional day’s leave.
  • If the contract states that employee’s annual leave entitlement is a certain number of days plus, for example, 8 bank holidays (specified or unspecified), then employees will not be entitled to the additional day’s leave.
  • If the contract states that employee’s annual leave entitlement is a certain number of days and does not mention bank holidays, then employee will not be entitled to an additional day’s leave.

However, where employees do not have a contractual entitlement to paid time off on the additional bank holiday, employers can choose to provide this as a gesture of goodwill. 

What about part-time employees?

Employers need to consider the rights of part-time employees in relation to the Diamond Jubilee bank holiday. If bank holidays are pro-rated for part-time employees (which avoids less favourable treatment), the employer should take into account the extra day's bank holiday in the 2012 pro rata calculations.

Are employees entitled to be paid?

Employees have no statutory right to be paid an enhanced rate of pay for working on a bank or public holiday. An employee's contract will determine the pay rate for working on a bank holiday. 

What now?

As a result of the extended weekend, the first week in June 2012 will consist of a three-day business week for many employers. Now is the time to start planning how you will deal with the bank holiday by checking contractual entitlements and considering business needs and staffing levels well in advance of June.   

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Party on, but mind the legal Claus - Edinburgh Evening News, Jobs Section

We’re well into December and lots of us are looking forward to the annual Christmas party at work. Even in these straitened times, there’s usually
something for the staff. Maybe it isn’t a full-blown sit-down dinner at a posh restaurant – it may be more like nuts and crisps and a glass of wine in the office –but it’s time to relax, have a bit of fun and forget about work.

So this is a timely warning for everyone, the organisers and the people who will go: Be careful at the work Christmas party. When it’s all being
picked apart in the cold light of January, you don’t want to figure in the gossip or the caseload of a legal practice.

Ashlie Turner, who is Managing Director of Magenta HR in Edinburgh, explains: “Employers have a fine line to tread by hosting the office Christmas party as a thanks to staff whilst proactively ensuring staff conduct is deemed acceptable so they don’t find themselves vicariously liable for any  inappropriate actions by their employees.

“The most likely claims to arise are harassment or discrimination claims. The Equality Act 2010 which came into force last October states the
definition of harassment as an individual engaging in unwanted conduct related to a relevant ‘protected characteristic’ that has the purpose or effect of violating another individual’s dignity, or creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for them. The relevant
protected characteristics for harassment are age, disability, gender reassignment, race, religion or belief, sex, and sexual orientation.”

Employment tribunals may well find that the party you organised or funded is legally within the course of your employment which makes you potentially liable for the action. If you can prove that you have taken adequate steps to show that you have done your best to prevent employees from committing these kinds of inappropriate acts at work, then you may have an adequate defence.

Ashlie Turner describes the kinds of actions employers need to have taken: “These steps may include providing regular awareness training on equal
opportunities and bullying and harassment policies and some organisations go as far as including details of appropriate behaviour, conduct and consequences of non-compliance when sending invitations to staff for the office party.”

Covering your back is one thing, but disasters still happen as Ms Turner explains: “Last Christmas I was told of a group of eight graduate management trainees who were set the task of organising their Edinburgh office Christmas party. The trainees had only been with the company a matter of weeks and this was the first event they had been involved in which would be attended by all office staff.

“Two of the trainees were tasked with organising the entertainment and through excitement or sheer naivety, they booked a male stripper. The stripper turned up relatively early in the evening, unfortunately before most people were in full party swing, and performed an X-rated act on the dance floor along with one of the trainees.

“She at this point gave an Oscar winning performance whilst completely oblivious to the reaction of her colleagues. Meanwhile, the remaining trainees were sobbing in the bathroom at the realisation their short-lived careers were now doomed.”

"Another way in which employers can be caught out is where someone injures someone else accidentally. One girl broke her boss’s wrist at an
Edinburgh office party while trying to force him to dance. Matters could have been a whole lot worse if this had been a colleague rather than the business’s owner. In that situation, the injury would have been classed as having happened at work and the employer could have been held indirectly responsible.

“Despite risking their reputation as a party pooper,” adds Ms Turner, “it’s worth employers taking all reasonable steps to ensure that employees do not engage in unlawful conduct by providing clear guidance as to what is and isn’t acceptable behavior - and of course, wish their staff a very merry Christmas!”

MAGGIE STANFIELD, Published 15 December 2011 www.writtenwords.eu

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Managing Absence During Public Sector Workers Strike Tomorrow

Due to the strike action by Public Sector workers tomorrow, many schools will be closed which is likely to cause difficulties for some employees who may not be able to arrange child care or support for other dependents.

The best practice approach is for employers to proactively manage the issue with their staff by allowing them to take a day’s holiday,
unpaid dependency leave or make up the time in the future.

Where appropriate and possible, staff who are equipped to work from home may wish to do so, but if staff are at home looking
after children it’s highly unlikely they will be able to work effectively! 

It’s worth having those discussions now to avoid any resource or unplanned absence issues tomorrow.

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Proposed Employment Law Reform Shows a Common Sense Approach to Workplace Disputes

New proposals published by Business Secretary, Vince Cable, outline radical reform to the employment law system. As always, we need to see the detail before we can give an informed opinion, but in principle the proposals show a common sense approach to tackling workplace disputes. This is potentially great news for all but especially for small businesses. The highlights of the proposal include;

Unfair Dismissal Increasing the qualification period for unfair dismissal pr otection from one to two years.

Compromise Agreements  The Government will create a  "standard text" for compromise agreements, with guidance and will  change the name of compromise agreements to "settlement  agreements" in primary legislation.

Protected conversations In 2012, the Government will consult on  the introduction of a system of "protected conversations" that  would allow either employers or employees to initiate a discussion about  an employment issue "at any time...as a way of resolving the matter  without fear".

Mediation and early conciliation The Government is now further convinced about the role that mediation can play in dispute resolution. It intends  to introduce a requirement for all potential tribunal claims to be lodged  with Acas, to give the parties a chance to resolve the matter through  early conciliation. The basic early conciliation period will be one  month.  

Modernising tribunals Intention of streamlining procedural code that  addresses concerns that the Rules have become "increasingly complex  and unwieldy over time".  

It’s expected that some of the changes will come into force as early as April 2012.





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