In the pipeline:
Shared parental leave
The system of shared parental leave, as provided for in the Children and Families Act 2014, has started the process of implementation as three sets of draft regulations went before Parliament for approval on 21 July. The legislation will apply to children due to be born or placed for adoption on or after 5 April 2015. Eligible employees will be entitled to a maximum of 52 weeks' leave and 39 weeks' statutory pay upon the birth or adoption of a child, which can be shared between the parents.
In the news:
Calls for two more public holidays
A proposal to make Eid and Diwali public holidays received over 122,991 signatures via an e-petition. The proposal was considered by the House of Commons on 21 July 2014 which decided against taking the proposal further as the current allocation of eight bank holidays is sufficient. Employees, with the agreement of their employers, can take their bank holidays at times other than the prescribed days to suit their needs. It was felt that the knock on effect on the economy from giving everyone 10 public holidays was unsustainable.
Increase in homeworking
Recent figures published by the TUC and the ONS suggest that over 4 million people now work from home of whom over a third are employees. This trend looks likely to continue upwards for a number of reasons: greater need for flexibility on behalf of both employer and employee; improved technology; and cost savings. However, homeworking is not for everyone and employers need to ascertain whether or not it is appropriate both for the role and the individual. ACAS has produced a useful guide: ‘Homeworking – a guide for employers and employees’ to help both parties understand the advantages and disadvantages.
Unpaid leave for grandparents looking after grandchildren
Following a report by the TUC into unpaid leave for working grandparents to allow them to help with childcare, a new survey by Ipsos MORI, jointly commissioned by Grandparents Plus, Save the Children and the Family and Childcare Trust, has been published. The survey established that 1.9 million grandparents have given up a job, reduced their hours, or taken time off work, to look after their grandchildren. The report suggests that, as people retire later, families who have traditionally relied on grandparents to help with childcare are struggling in the face of increasing childcare costs. The report also suggests that grandparental leave would help both working parents and grandparents to stay in work.
Tories propose to curtail strike action
As the political parties start to gear up for next year’s election, the Conservatives have said that they will introduce legislation to ensure that any recommendation to strike must receive the support of over 50% of eligible union members if it is to be lawful. Other proposals include: a new three-month time limit after a ballot for the strike action to take place; giving employers 14 days’ notice of strike action; making illegal picketing a criminal offence; and making the current code of practice on picketing legally binding.
The cases of Fulton v Bear Scotland Ltd and Wood v Hertel (UK) Ltd deal with, in particular, the question of whether an employer should take a worker's overtime payments into account when calculating their holiday pay in respect of the minimum four weeks' statutory annual leave required by the Working Time Directive. The EAT heard the cases between 30 July and 1 August 2014. We are currently awaiting judgment.
£18 million in protective awards paid so far to Woolworths staff
Recent figures from the Redundancy Payments Service (RPS) reveal that Woolworths staff have received over £59m in total, of which £18m relates to protective awards for failure to inform and consult employee representatives. It is assumed that these payments are for those staff who worked at stores with 20 or more people as the case relating to staff working at stores with 19 or fewer are still waiting to hear whether they will be eligible for protective awards following the referral of the case USDAW v Ethel Austin Ltd (in administration) and another case UKEAT/0547/12 to the ECJ.
Restrictive covenants: Prophet plc v Huggett
Following the decision by the High Court to grant an injunction to enforce a 12-month non-compete restrictive covenant, Mr Huggett was given leave to appeal. The Court of Appeal overturned the injunction on the basis that although the contract had not been drafted correctly, it was not ambiguous and it was not the role of the courts to redraft restrictive covenants just because the person drafting it had not thought through the consequences of that drafting. The judge summed up the situation by noting that ‘Prophet made its bed and must lie on it’. This is yet another reminder that restrictive covenants must be drawn up carefully otherwise it is likely to fall victim to the law of unintended consequences.