164: And finally a look forward to what’s happening in employment news for May 2019
Acas (The Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service) has published a new guide on age discrimination for employers, employees and job applicants. This covers the key areas where age discrimination may happen, such as recruitment, performance management and redundancy; steps to take to prevent age discrimination; the risks of age stereotyping; ageist language; raising and handling complaints; and the exceptions when different treatment because of age may be allowed. The guidance highlights the legal requirements which apply to employers as well as best practice and case studies. Acas has also published two factsheets containing the top ten age discrimination myths and the top ten issues for employers to consider.
Employment Tribunal compensation limits will rise on 6 April 2019 under the Employment Rights Act (Increase in Limits) Order 2019, based on the 3.3% RPI increase in September 2018. The increase will apply to dismissals where the effective date of termination falls on or after 6 April 2019. The maximum compensatory award for unfair dismissal will rise from £83,682 to £86,444. The maximum amount of a week’s pay, used to calculate statutory redundancy payments and the basic and additional awards for unfair dismissal, will also rise from £508 to £525.
On 8 February 2019, the Government Equalities Office published two guides to help employers close their gender pay gap by identifying its potential causes and developing an effective action plan. ‘Eight ways to understand your gender pay gap’ contains key questions to ask in specific areas of employment in order to identify the policies and practices which could be contributing to the gender pay gap. For example, employers are encouraged to ask whether there is gender imbalance in promotions, whether women are more likely to be recruited into lower levels, and whether particular aspects of pay differ by gender. The guide then gives practical suggestions to help address any gender imbalance. The second guide, ‘Four steps to developing a gender pay gap action plan’ is based on feedback from employers with effective action plans in place. It stresses the importance of gaining support from senior leaders, consultation and engagement with a wide range of stakeholders, and embedding the action plan into everyday working practices.
Hermes and the GMB union have reached a deal which creates a new ‘self-employed plus’ status. This agreement comes after the Employment Tribunal ruled that 200 Hermes couriers are workers, not self-employed, and therefore entitled to the National Minimum Wage and paid annual leave. The new status will provide a number of benefits, including up to 28 days’ holiday pay and individually negotiated pay rates which will enable couriers to earn at least £8.55 per hour over a year. Self-employed plus couriers who join the GMB will also benefit from full GMB representation. This is an opt-in model, so couriers who wish to retain their current self-employed status and earn higher rates can still do so. It is likely that HMRC will be scrutinising the details of the new arrangement very carefully. At present couriers can only be taxed as employees or on a self-employed basis, although the Government recently announced that it will consider how the tax and employment status frameworks can be aligned.
Mental Health First Aid, which provides mental health first aid instructor training, has launched best practice guidance for employers on how to implement mental health first aid into the workplace. This follows the Health and Safety Executive’s recent change to its First Aid Guidance to recommend that mental health is considered alongside physical health, and the Government’s drive to encourage employers to implement the six core standards for a mentally healthy workplace set out in the ‘Thriving at Work’ review. The guidance includes advice on how to develop an open and supportive culture; the role of line managers; training; creating a wellbeing strategy and mental health first aid policy; and recruiting mental health first aiders.
On 21 February 2019, the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy published new guidance on the powers available to Employment Tribunals and how they are used in practice. This covers deposit orders, costs orders and wasted costs orders; the use of aggravated breach penalties; and adjustments to compensation under the Acas disciplinary and grievance code of practice. The new guide is a response to feedback suggesting that there is confusion and lack of awareness about the powers which Tribunals have to deal with poor behaviour in bringing or defending a claim, serious employment law breaches, and the potential financial consequences for the parties.