This month, the plums in our Christmas employment news pudding
are: ‘law in a cold climate’ (dealing with severe weather related
absence); next year’s statutory payment rates and limits; DH
guidance on staff transfers; and an update on the review of the
Public Sector Equality Duties. And Stop Press
- Government announces reduced collective redundancy
consultation period. Sarah Maddock reports.
Law in a cold climate
The potential for difficult weather conditions is never far
off at this chilly time of year, so now would be a good time
to take out and defrost your policies and procedures on dealing
with absence related to inclement weather. If you are putting
pen to paper and drafting up such policies, or overhauling your
existing policies, you may wish to consider the following
- Your first port of call will be to check what your policies and
procedures have to say about unauthorised unexpected absences, and
whether these specifically cover absence by reason of severe
- Employees often (wrongly) believe that they are entitled to be
paid if they are absent from work because of snow, floods, or high
wind. This is not the case – although, of course, it is
always open to employers to be more generous and allow employees
paid leave where they are unable to get to work because of severe
weather conditions. Alternatively, you may wish to require
employees to use annual leave (if available) to cover this absence;
or require them to make up the time later.
- It may be possible to put in place alternative arrangements for
employees unable to get to work, such as remote working.
Alternatively, or in addition to this, you may want to consider
contingency plans for unexpected absence – e.g. can staff from
another area of your organisation be drafted in to cover?
- Some employees may be able to get into work themselves, but are
unable to attend because schools or nurseries are shut due to staff
absence. In these circumstances, they may be entitled to take time
off as emergency leave for dependants (for which there is no
automatic entitlement to be paid). Employees taking such
leave should be treated equally with their colleagues, but bear in
mind that the leave is designed to allow employees to make
alternative arrangements; not to undertake the
- However you decide to deal with unexpected staff absence,
remember that you must act fairly, in a non-discriminatory way and
in accordance with any policies which are already operating.
If any of this strikes a chord with you, or if you have any
queries, please do get in touch. The team has a wealth of
experience of drafting policies for, and advising on, this type of
New statutory payment rates & limits
Details of statutory payment limits for 2013 have now been
Notable changes are
- the limit on the amount of a week's pay for the purposes of
calculating, amongst other things, statutory redundancy payments
and the basic award for unfair dismissal will increase from £430 to
- The maximum compensatory award for unfair dismissal goes up
from £72,300 to £74,200.
- The minimum basic award in cases where the dismissal was unfair
by virtue of health and safety, employee representative, trade
union, or occupational pension trustee reasons will increase from £
5,300 to £ 5,500.
The new rates apply where the event giving rise to compensation
or payment occurs on or after 1 February 2013. For example, in the
case of unfair dismissal the rates apply to all dismissals where
the effective date of termination falls on or after this date.
Where the dismissal or relevant event falls before 1 February, the
old limits will still apply, irrespective of the date on which
compensation is awarded.
It has also been announced (as part of the Autumn Statement that statutory sick pay, statutory
maternity pay, statutory paternity pay and statutory adoption pay
will increase by 1% a year for three years from April 2013.
Public health transfers: guidance issued
The Department of Health has published guidance on
the transfer of public health staff under the Health and Social
Care Act 2012 reforms.
- defines ‘Transfer Schemes’ and ‘Transfer Orders’
- describes what the ‘sender’ and ‘receiver’ organisations need
to do; and
- sets out key deadlines.
Review of public sector equality duty
The Home Office has published the terms of reference for the review of the public
sector equality duties (PSED) in Part 11 of the Equality Act 2010
(EqA 2010). The review will take into account the budgetary
position facing public bodies and will
- examine evidence about the effectiveness of the general duty
(under section 149 of the EqA 2010) and the specific duties
(implemented under section 153 of the EqA 2010) from public bodies
who have an obligation to fulfill the PSED and from those
organisations upon whom the duty has impacted.
- Explore the impact of the PSED in terms of costs, burdens and
- Consider how the duty functions in the context of the
Government's equality strategy and its new approach to achieving
change, including transparency, devolving power to people and
integrating equality considerations into policy and
A steering group is due to meet from this month onwards, to
conduct evidence-gathering exercises and then prepare a report
based on its analysis of the evidence obtained.
STOP PRESS - collective redundancy consultation period
As Employment Eye went to press yesterday, the Government
announced that, from April 2013, the collective redundancy
consultation period will be reduced from 90 to 45 days. The
stated intention is that this will avoid unnecessary delays, and
afford employers greater certainty and flexibility. The
Government has also announced plans to exclude fixed term contracts
from collective agreements. We will keep you posted on
further details, when they are published.