Employment news round-up, December 2016

Our last round-up of the key employment news in brief for 2016 covers: an update on industrial action reform; further ET reform; an interesting new report on working in local government; the latest Brexit news and details of next year's statutory payment increases.

15/12/2016

Industrial action reform - update

As we reported in the May 2016 edition of Employment Eye, the Trade Union Act 2016 received Royal Assent earlier this year, and will introduce various reforms to the requirements for lawful industrial action. One of the reforms under the Trade Union Act 2016 is that for certain "important public services", balloting requirements will be tighter than for other organisations.

Draft regulations have now been published defining "important public services" for the five categories of service affected:

- health

- fire

- transport

- education

- border security

For these services, an additional threshold of 40% of support for industrial action from all eligible members will be required (in addition to the requirement that at least 50% of eligible members must have voted). Please click on the relevant regulations for the full list of types of services within each category - but, in summary, key areas covered include

  • teachers and headteachers at publicly funded schools
  • firefighters and associated call-handlers
  • ambulance services
  • accident and emergency services
  • services which are provided in high-dependency units and intensive care in a hospital
  • psychiatric services and obstetric and midwifery services, where the services are provided in a hospital for conditions which require immediate attention in order to prevent serious injury, serious illness or loss of life.

In other industrial action news, a revised Code of Practice on Picketing has been published. The revisions relate to the requirement that will be introduced by section 10 of the Trade Union Act 2016 for unions to appoint a picket supervisor. The new Code will come into force on a date to be advised.

Further employment tribunal reform in the pipeline

The Department for Business Energy and Industrial Strategy and the Ministry of Justice have launched a joint consultation, Reforming the Employment Tribunal System, setting out proposals for reform of the employment tribunals and EAT.

The deadline for responses is 20 January 2017.

Proposed changes, which are intended to simplify the process and speed up resolution of disputes, include:

  • digitising the whole claims process;
  • delegating a broad range of routine tasks from judges to caseworkers; and
  • tailoring the expertise of tribunal panels to the needs of the case.

The consultation also notes that the long-awaited and long overdue review of the introduction of fees is to be published in due course and that any adjustments to the current fee structure will be the subject of consultation.

Local government – why does your workforce work for you?

An interesting new report from the New Local Government Network (NLGN) takes a look at what motivates people working in local government and considers their future employment. The full report can be downloaded here, but key findings are that 'public service' is one of the main motivators for employees in local government, although that factor is rated less highly by those employed in front line roles. Work-life balance was the next biggest reason for working in local government. The report makes a number of recommendations for the future of the local government workforce, including

- less hierarchical management structures

- more engagement with the public; and

- more involvement with external groups, such as the Local Government Association.

Brexit news

  • An EU Justice Sub-Committee has opened an inquiry, and heard two oral evidence sessions on 6 December 2016, on the question of the implications for civil justice (and family law litigation) of the UK leaving the jurisdiction of the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU). Initial evidence to the Justice Sub-Committee from legal academics, on the question of civil justice, suggests that there are advantages to be gained from the consistency of approach developed by the CJEU. The academics presenting evidence to the enquiry suggested that it would be advisable to retain, if possible, those benefits once we have left the European Union; but maintaining participation in the system would probably require a level of reciprocity, mirroring the current system.
  • The House of Lords library has published a briefing note, 'Leaving the European Union: Future UK-EU Relationship'. The note was prepared to inform a debate that took place in the House of Lords on 1 December 2016, on the best options for the UK's future relationship with the European Union. The briefing looks at the options / issues around each of the four stated objectives of 'Brexit Secretary' David Davis:

- bringing control of our legal system back to the UK Parliament
- bringing back control over immigration
- maintaining security co-operation with the EU
- establishing the freest possible market in goods and services with the EU and the rest of the world.

Payment increases for next year announced

You may wish to make a diary note of the dates for next year's annual statutory payment increases - the Department for Work and Pensions has announced in a policy paper that the following increased weekly rates for statutory payments will apply from April 2017.

  • Sick pay will be £89.35 (up from £88.45).
  • Maternity pay will be £140.98 (up from £139.58).
  • Paternity pay (SPP) will be £140.98 (up from £139.58).
  • Shared parental leave pay will be £140.98 (up from £139.58).

Annual increases in statutory payments normally apply from the first Sunday in April; but the written statement announcing these changes suggests that the increases will take effect from the end of the first full week at the start of the tax year, i.e. 10 April 2017.

 

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