Employment Law advice – not a distress purchase

Year Published: 2015

Often we’ll get told by prospective business clients that they have a happy workforce with no employment law issues and so they don’t need to pay for employment law & HR advice.

We understand their logic. But often a reactive approach to employment disputes can be expensive and time consuming.

In this article we discuss the benefits to a business in having our dedicated, specialist employment lawyers working with them at all times and not just when an employment dispute arises.

Becoming business partners

Our commercial clients pay one fee (either immediately or monthly) to have the benefit of our attention all year round under our SAS Protect service.

This includes:

  • A dedicated, specialist employment law adviser on hand at all times to give you employment law & HR advice;
  • A full contract and handbook review (and redraft where necessary);
  • Regular contract reviews and updates in keeping with changes in legislation;
  • Unlimited advice and guidance on any UK employment law issue;
  • At least three on-site visits throughout the year from your allocated adviser to ensure we are up to date with business affairs.

Because of the relationship we build with each of our clients through this service, when an employment dispute arises we are perfectly placed to give practical and commercial employmentlaw & HR advice. You would also be receiving the benefits of points 2 & 3 irrespective of whether or not you have any live employment issues.

The importance of regular contract reviews

Again, often we get told that businesses already have contracts and a handbook in place and that these were drafted by specialist employment lawyers.

We can understand why a business may in that situation not feel the need to spend money on getting their contracts and handbook reviewed, especially when they have been drafted in the last few years.

We have however set out below some significant changes in employment law legislation over the last few years by way of demonstrating why it is necessary to have contracts and handbooks reviewed and updated regularly. This is by no means an exhaustive list and we are course happy to discuss these changes and other changes in further detail with you:

Date changes are in force Nature of change Summary Employers should consider the following:
2015 Introduction of shared parental leave

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. This includes the 2 weeks’ compulsory maternity pay which must be taken by the mother.

 

 

  • Whether to offer statutory or enhanced pay for shared parental leave;
  • Implementing a shared parental leave policy;
  • Amending existing maternity, paternity or adoption policies;
  • Ensuring managers understand how to deal with shared parental leave requests from employees.
2015 Abolition of exclusivity clauses in zero-hours contracts Since 2015, there has been a ban on exclusivity clauses in contracts that do not guarantee hours of work (zero-hours contracts)

A clause in a zero-hours contract will be unenforceable if it prohibits:

An employee/worker from carrying out work or performing services under any other contract or under any other arrangement.

2014 Flexible working

Employees with 26 weeks continuous employment can now make a request for flexible working.

The employee may request a change in their contractual terms, such as the hours they work, the times that they work or place of work.

The employer must act reasonably when dealing with the request and can only refuse for one of eight permitted reasons.

Implementing a flexible working policy to inform employees how employees should make a request, who the request should be made to and what should be covered by the application.

Where a request is accepted it will be a contractual variation. The employer must issue a written statement of the changes or a new contract within one month of the changes taking effect and this should be signed.

2012

Patsystems v Neilly

 

This case confirmed the principle that restrictive covenants, which prevent an employee carrying out certain activities after an employee has left a business, must have been reasonable at the time they were entered into, and not at the time the individual is leaving the company.

 

Employers need to ensure that restrictions contained in any contract of employment are tailored to an individual’s particular role, status and level of responsibility at the time that person signs the contract.

These restrictions should also be regularly reviewed and may need amending where an individual is promoted to a more senior position with more responsibility.

 

2011 Abolition of the Retirement Age Since 6 April 2011, the default retirement age of 65 has been abolished. This means that it is no longer lawful for employers to have a compulsory retirement age, except in cases where it is justifiable as a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim.

Surprisingly we do still see contracts which specify a compulsory retirement age.

Employers should change any contract of employment which contains a provision for an employee to retire at a certain age. This is unless a clear legitimate aim can be established (i.e. health and safety), and it can be shown that introducing a compulsory retirement aim is a proportionate means of achieving that aim.

We hope the above illustrates the benefit of regular documentation reviews and having dedicated advisers on board to assist you in implementing any necessary changes.

If you wish to speak to a member of our Employment Law & HR team about the content of your contracts and company handbook or general employment law & HR advice, please do not hesitate to contact us on 0161 475 7668.

 

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