In this article...

Lara Feghali reports on the latest developments in employment law including details of the increased “Vento” guideline payments for injury to feelings awards, news that the Civil Service is to end forced retirement at 65, confirmation that there is to be no change to statutory sick pay (SSP) in respect of a pandemic flu outbreak, information on a new code of practice on tips and service charges, confirmation that tax relief on child care vouchers is to be abolished and details of the Tribunal statistics for 2008/09.

Vento Guidelines to increase with inflation

Although the transcript is not yet available for public consumption, it has been reported that the Employment Appeal Tribunal (“EAT”) has handed down a decision in the case of Da’Bell v NSPCC which held that the Vento guidelines on compensation for injury to feelings should be increased in line with inflation. In its decision the EAT set out the new inflation adjusted figures which are reportedly as follows:-

  • Lower band will increase from £500 - £5,000 to £600 - £6000
  • Middle band will increase £5,000 - £15,000 to £6,000 - £18,000
  • Higher band will increase from £15,000 - £25,000 to £18,000 - £30,000

The end of forced retirement in the Civil Service

Employers can currently choose to make staff retire after the national default retirement age (DRA) of 65, a rule that recently withstood a legal challenge brought by age campaigners Heyday. However, the Civil Service has recently announced it is to end forced retirement for staff at all levels by April 2010, allowing employees to carry on working for as long as they like and effectively making the service “retirement free”.

Pandemic flu - SSP arrangements clarified and no change for now

The Department of Health (“DoH”) has issued a statement which confirms that there has been no change to the Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) regulations in respect of pandemic flu. In particular the DoH is keen to point out that there has been no change to the requirements for medical certification for absences lasting more than seven days (which still require a GP’s sick note). However, they have confirmed the situation is being kept under review to enable action to be taken quickly if necessary.

Local Government Employers has also published updated advice for local authority employers on how to deal with self-certification, occupational sick pay and statutory sick pay during an outbreak of swine flu. The advice document asks employers to help reduce the burden on GPs by considering more flexible methods of dealing with sick employees. For example, the guidance suggest that instead of requesting a doctor's certificate to prove an employee's illness after seven days, employers could consider alternatives, such as extending the self-certification period and asking their own medical staff to get in touch with sick employees to determine whether they are indeed unable to work. The guidance can be found here.

Tips and service charges – new code of best practice published

The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills has published a Code of Best Practice on Service Charges, Tips, Gratuities and Cover Charges which provides guidance on compliance with the new rules on the national minimum wage and tips which took effect on 1 October. In summary the new rules confirm that from 1 October all eligible workers must receive at least national minimum wage in base pay with any tips they receive being paid on top. The Code aims to provide businesses with practical guidance on how to operate in a fair and transparent way and should ensure consumers have sufficient information to make an informed choice before they leave a tip or gratuity or pay a service charge.

Tax relief on childcare vouchers to be removed

The Prime Minister has announced that tax relief on employer-supported childcare, i.e. childcare vouchers, will be removed by April 2015. In his closing speech at the Labour Party conference, Mr Brown confirmed that the money saved from this measure (which reportedly cost the UK £500m between 2008 and 2009), will go towards providing 250,000 free nursery places for children from lower-income families. Existing members of a scheme will continue to enjoy the same relief until April 2015; however, tax relief will not be available for employees who join a voucher scheme after April 2011.

Tribunal Statistics 2008/2009

The Tribunal Service has published its final statistics for the period 1 April 2008 – 31 March 2009.

In summary the key statistics are as follows:-

  • 4% fall in the number of claims submitted (not counting over 10,000 multiple claims from airline crew in 2007/08)
  • 29% increase in unfair dismissal claims
  • 31 % increase in breach of contract claims
  • 48% increase in redundancy pay claims
  • 150% increase in claims for failure to inform and consult on a collective redundancy

Of the claims brought:

  • 33% were withdrawn
  • 32% were settled via ACAS
  • 13% were successful at tribunal

The average award for damages were:-

  • Unfair dismissal
    Maximum £84,005, Median £4,269, Average £7,959
  • Race Discrimination
    Maximum £1,353,432, Median £5,172, Average £32,115
  • Sex discrimination
    Maximum £113,106, Median £7,000, Average £11,025
  • Disability Discrimination
    Maximum £388,612, Median £7,226, Average £27,235


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